While the results [uk] of the Oct. 28 parliamentary elections in Ukraine are still being finalized (not a controversy-free process, of course), netizens are already discussing the anticipated outcome. Many are paying special attention to the far-right Svoboda Party (VO Svoboda, the All-Ukrainian Union “Freedom”) and its victorious leap over the 5% threshold necessary to obtain seats in the Parliament.
Before 2004, VO Svoboda was known as the Social-National Party of Ukraine. Its current logo, which features a Tryzub-like pro-independence gesture, was adopted also in 2004, replacing the “idea of a nation” sign similar to the one used in Nazi Germany.
One of the people behind this image revamp was Oleh Tyahnybok, who became VO Svoboda's leader in February 2004. At the time, he was also an MP for the fraction of Viktor Yushchenko's Our Ukraine bloc (which was his second term [uk] in the Parliament; the first one had been between 1998 and 2002 [uk]). In July 2004, however, Tyahnybok was expelled from the soon-to-be Ukrainian President's political force because of the xenophobic statements [uk] – anti-Semitic and anti-Russian – that he had made in one of his speeches.
In the 2006 parliamentary elections, VO Svoboda received 0.36% of the vote, in 2007 – 0.76%. In 2009, the party won the Ternopil Regional Council election, defeating Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc (GV text – here). This year, VO Svoboda signed a cooperation agreement with Tymoshenko's Batkivshchyna Party – aka the United Opposition – shortly before the elections (Tymoshenko herself has been in jail for over a year now). According to the preliminary results [uk], Tyahnybok's party has 10.42% of the votes cast on Oct. 28.
Many of these votes come from people who disagree with or do not take VO Svoboda and its platform seriously.
Serhiy Petrov, member of the Board at Wikimedia Ukraine, explained [uk] VO Svoboda's success this way:
[…] Svoboda's result doesn't surprise me. They've been moving towards it for a long time: they always come out to rallies with their own banners, they distribute leaflets, newsletters – at the time when others rely on the ranking of their leaders. And it was this lack of transparency and systematic approach of the leaders of all the “democrats” that drew even those to Svoboda who did not share their ideology […].
LJ user dmytro noted [uk] that many of VO Svoboda's voters in Kyiv were “Russophone or mostly Russophone bilinguals, and there were also plenty of ethnic Russians”:
[…] For most of them, it was a protest vote – the capital's residents are too sick of the [parties that have been in the Parliament for a long time], especially [President Victor Yanukovych's Party of Regions]. And so, if Svoboda wants to keep these votes, it should be moving away from natiocracy towards a more democratic version of nationalism – without xenophobia and obscurantism. […]
Olena Tregub wrote this [uk] about VO Svoboda:
[…] I am against their racist and homophobic rhetoric, but it's nothing but rhetoric. And the real difference will stay – this is the only ideological party that believes in something other than money. By the way, all my Russophone Kyiv relatives are voting for them – a phenomenon!
Later, Tregub added in a comment [uk]:
I agree that Svoboda isn't a completely civilized party, but our country is uncivilized in general. Also, the way I understand it, those skinheads who are beating gays aren't running for parliament. [Svoboda's] program talks about lustration, about involving young people in state management […].
Journalist Sonya Koshkina posted this “endorsement” [ru] of VO Svoboda on the eve of the vote:
[…] Tyahnybok & Co. have a solid worldview. One may disagree with it (and I do disagree, on many points), but it's hard not to respect the fact of its existence. […]
Journalist Vitaly Portnikov replied [ru] to Koshkina:
Just as I thought: the [Weimar Republic]. 1932. Back then, however, they were voting for the original, and now they are voting for his interpreters ). And the result, fortunately, will look like farce. But it feels no better because of that.
Oleksandr Aronets, responsible for PR at VO Svoboda's Kyiv branch, joined the discussion started by Koshkina, first addressing [uk] Portnikov:
Vitaly Portnikov, it's hard to read your nonsense about NSDAP [the National Socialist German Workers’ Party], but I'd like to say that communism and socialism are capable of creating Hitlers, too. A few more years in this country without Svoboda and we'll have such a hitler – a collective Yanukovych, or Yanukovych's family. And then you'll be crying because you were so deeply wrong before.
Later, Aronets got involved in a conversation about nationalism in Ukraine and Israel, defending (somewhat clumsily) VO Svoboda's current “party line” on the issue:
NATIONALISM IS AN INFERIORITY COMPLEX
I wonder why all the Jews are nationalists then? :)
Nationalism is love for one's own, but definitely not hostility towards the other. This is why all Jews are such nationalists – they love what's their own best of all.
Jews are nationalists? Nonsense. […]
Somehow I'm sure that there are only Jews in the Knesset, unlike [the Ukrainian Parliament], where different ethnicities are represented. […] Call it Zionism. We have our own analogy – the Ukrainian nationalism. […]
In these comments Aronets echoed his boss, Tyahnybok, who, at a post-election news conference, was asked if VO Svoboda was “an anti-Semitic party.” Here's what he responded [uk]:
I respect the Israeli citizens’ patriotic views. I find it worthy of respect that Israel has a Foreign Affairs Ministry that, through its statements, is trying to defend the interests of [the Israeli citizens]. I'd like to ask the Israeli side to have a similar respect for our patriotic feelings and treat with understanding the expression of free will of the Ukrainians. Because, perhaps, every party present in the Israeli Knesset is a nationalist party. Every single one. God willing, we'll have it the same way.
Jews are always nosing around! Let them put things in order in their country, and we'll somehow manage by ourselves in our own!!!
And here's VO Svoboda's “party line” in the interpretation [uk] of one of the supporters, 22-year-old Yakiv Glovatsky:
[…] Of course, the frail [communists] will raise a stink – not the best times for their gay synagogue now! Of course, the useless liberals will be crying – because the Ukrainophobe politics will no longer have a chance! Of course, the spineless [Donetsk residents] are [scared] – because now they've got a serious Enemy, […] – the Power and Glory of Ukraine, its cultural vanguard, it's wolf-like Courage and a Snake's intellect! […]
Aleksei Bobrovnikov, who considers [ru] VO Svoboda “a party that espouses the politics of ethnic intolerance, while being funded from the budget of oligarchs close to Yanukovych,” had a close look at the party's platform [uk] and highlighted [uk, ru] some of the least agreeable items on it. A few of them are listed below:
[…] To introduce “ethnicity” line in passports and birth certificates. To determine ethnicity through parents’ birth certificates, taking into account the Ukrainian citizen's wishes. […]
[…] To introduce criminal responsibility for any kind of manifestation of Ukrainophobia. […]
[…] To ban termination of pregnancy, except in cases when there are medical indications and a court decision [confirming that a rape took place]. In the Criminal Code, to equal illegal performance of an abortion to attempted murder. […]
[…] To ban adoption of Ukrainian children by foreigners. […]
Artem Chapeye and his Facebook readers placed [en, uk] Ukraine's situation into a broader European context:
according to exit polls, about 12% of Ukrainians voted for far-right, ex “social-nationalist” party.
it's even more than in hungary, right?
no, [Jobbik] had 16%
[Marine Le Pen] had 18% in France. :)
Honestly, I did think about the Le Pens, too. 16+[%] in the first presidential election and 18[%] in the second. What's worrisome here isn't really the percentage of those who voted, but the fact that [these forces] are in the parliament now.