Ukraine's September Elections and the Challenges Awaiting the New Government

Reuben W. Hills Conference Room
  • Steven Pifer

The 2007 Ukrainian elections are a clear move forward in a variety of ways. Ambassador Steven Pifer sets out why, as well as the options for the creation of a coalition government. Mr. Pifer also clearly explains the number of key issues that the new government will have to face.


Ambassor Pifer begins by explaining the election results from September 2007. He reveals who he believes were the winners and losers, as well as who thinks we will have to wait for and see. Mr. Pifer argues that, in any case, the election was good news for democratization in Ukraine. Citing that this has been the third consecutive national election, he believes that the country is getting a grip of how elections are to be run. Mr. Pifer reinforces this by explaining that the election was free, fair, and basically fraudless. Another point Mr. Pifer emphasizes is the fact that the parties generally accepted the outcome, as well as that major parties such as Tymoshenko’s bloc are breaking out of their regional bases.

However, Mr. Pifer explains that the elections do not mean the work is over as a coalition is yet to be formed. He examines the possibility of the an ‘orange restoration’ involving a coalition between President Yushchenko and Yulia Tymoshenko, but there are some fears that Tymoshenko may not receive the necessary number of votes in Ukraine’s parliament to become prime minister. On the other hand, others have looked towards the possibility of a coalition between President Yushchenko and Viktor Yanukovych. Mr. Pifer believes this seems more natural, but he is again not sure deputies would support it. Mr. Pifer also examines what President Yushchenko might want personally and what would benefit him politically.

Although which coalition will be formed is not clear, Mr. Pifer feels there are some clear challenges for the government to face when it comes into power. He argues that while the economy is strong, evidence includes the emergence of a middle class, there are several steps to be made on the economy. He explains that Ukraine must complete WTO accession, abolish its outdated commercial code, free the sale of agricultural land, and reform the tax and regulatory systems. Most urgently, Mr. Pifer argues that energy security must be taken care of, and this must be part of a necessary effort to manage relations with Russia better. Inside the government, Mr. Pifer notes ambiguities in the constitution which must be amended, and he stresses serious steps must be taken to counter corruption. Mr. Pifer also hopes that Ukrainian government can develop habits of cooperation and compromise and move beyond politics to pass policies. He concludes by emphasizing that he is optimistic about Ukraine’s opportunities, but he also feels Ukraine has a tendency to miss them rather than seize them.

about the speaker

Steven Pifer is a senior adviser with the Center for Strategic and International Studies. A retired Foreign Service officer, his more than 25 years with the State Department focused on U.S. relations with the former Soviet Union and Europe, as well as on arms control and security issues. His assignments included deputy assistant secretary of state in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs (2001-2004), ambassador to Ukraine (1998-2000), and special assistant to the president and National Security Council senior director for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia (1996-1997). He also served at the U.S. embassies in Warsaw, Moscow and London, as well as with the U.S. delegation to the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces negotiations in Geneva. He holds a B.A. in economics from Stanford University, where he later spent a year as a visiting scholar at Stanford's Institute for International Studies. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.