OPORA analyzed the situation in the well-known constituency 184, with the ongoing preparations for the ballot for the people's deputy, as part of the by-elections.

After the election of Ihor Kolykhayev as the mayor of Kherson, constituency 184 has been vacant. Thus, by-elections for the People's Deputy were scheduled for October 31. The district has a long tradition of voter bribery, abuse of administrative resources, and it even experienced an attack against the DEC in 2012.

The constituency is now at a new crossroads: either local interest groups win again, or parliamentary parties will be able to bring the campaign to the level of national policy.

In 2019, Ihor Kolykhayev, with his regional project "We are here to live," became the only one of the five elected majoritarians in the region who did not represent the presidential party "Servant of the People." The 2020 local elections strengthened Kolykhayev's success at the time and gave some regional significance to his local project. The party "We are here to live" received the second result in the Kherson regional council, and its deputy Hennadiy Lahuta became the deputy chairman.

The entry of Kolykhayev's party into the leadership of the regional council together with the "Servant of the People" and the OPFL testifies to his important role in the power structure of the region. In addition, in the regional center, the party controls 31% of parliamentary seats and the post of city council secretary.

In the constituency itself, Kolykhayev's project together with the "Servant of the People" has the largest number of community leaders (3 positions for each hromada), and the position of deputies in the district's local government comes second, following the "Servant of the People" and the "Opposition Platform - For Life." In the vast majority of communities, cooperation has been established between the parties. In Nova Kakhovka, the center of the district, three-time re-elected mayor, Volodymyr Kovalenok, ran on behalf of the "Servant of the People." However, the experienced mayor has effective cooperation with OPFL and "We are here to live,"  which will be an important factor in the future campaign.

After being elected mayor of Kherson, Ihor Kolykhayev made no secret of his desire to hand over the constituency to a representative of his team. Back in March, the intention was publicly announced in favour of Hennadiy Lahuta, the official leader of the "We are here to live" party and an ally of the mayor of the region's capital, to run for the People's Deputies of Ukraine. Lahuta has already de facto launched an election campaign that engaged Kolykhayev himself and his charitable foundation, with the same name as the party. The latter detail is very important. During the 2019-2020 campaigns, the Ihor Kolykhayev Charitable Foundation was one of the pillars of his electoral success. At the same time, it was a bright example of the viability of material incentive technologies for voters in Ukraine.

The ambitions of the local party project could potentially be hampered by the plans of the region's most influential parliamentary parties, the "Servant of the People" and the "Opposition Platform for Life." Of the two political "heavyweights" in the region, it is the OPFL that has already decided on a candidate, and the region's high-ranking Yuriy Boyko has personally managed to join his early campaigning. Yehor Ustynov, the first deputy chairman of the Kherson regional council, became the pre-election deal of the opposition party. For the OPFL, the elections in the constituency may be an attempt at retaliating for the weak campaign in the midterm elections of the People's Deputy in constituency No. 50 of Donetsk region, where their representative withdrew his candidacy. In contrast, the success in the constituency should signal the resilience of the political force after the Medvedchuk's case.

The "Servant of the People," on the other hand, has not yet announced their candidate, nor their intention to nominate any. In 2019, their candidate was Danylo Repilevsky, a son of a well-known agribusinessman in the constituency, the current deputy of the regional council from OPFL, Eduard Repilevsky. After losing to Ihor Kolykhayev, Danylo Repilevsky has not been proactive. Now, the ruling party is represented in the constituency only by the reception offices of people's deputies elected in the neighboring districts. At the same time, in the 2020 local elections, the “Servant of the People” officially supported Ihor Kolykhayev's candidacy for the post of Kherson mayor.

The same as the ruling force, the parliamentary parties European Solidarity, Batkivshchyna, and Holos have not yet publicly signaled about their nominees in the by-elections.

Competition of local and national party projects is not the only intrigue of the upcoming elections in the constituency. Potential candidates are a whole group of former people’s deputies of Ukraine, who were elected in this constituency and in the neighboring ones, and are going to try to get their way back in the new elections (Ivan Vinnyk, Mykola Dmytruk, Serhiy Khlan, Yuriy Odarchenko).The ability of old-timers of Kherson politics to play on an equal footing with the three leading forces in the region – “Servant of the People,” “OPFL,” and “We are here to live” – is one of the intrigues of the upcoming election campaign.

The regional council runs a risk of becoming the political epicenter of the electoral confrontation. Two active candidates for the mandate are part of its leadership. Yehor Ustynov (first deputy chairperson) and Hennadiy Lahuta (deputy chairman) have already been actively involved in the election campaign, which they publicly combined with the performance of official duties. Deputies of the “European Solidarity” and the “Batkivshchyna” All-Ukrainian Union accuse Oleksandr Samoilenko and Yuriy Sobolevsky, the chairman and deputy chairman of the regional council from the “Servants of the People,” of coalition agreements with OPFL and “We are here to live.” They are also credited them with fueling Yehor Ustynov’s ambitions.

Against the background of turmoil in the regional council, the regional state administration has not yet shown any significant interest in the upcoming elections. The current head of the Kherson Regional State Administration, Serhiy Kozyr, was appointed as recently as in March 2021. Before that, he worked as the deputy head of the previous head, Yuriy Husiev, the current CEO of Ukroboronprom SE.

Potential candidates. Who are they?

According to OPORA’s estimates, eight candidates have already been active in constituency 184, to varying degrees. The main forms were outdoor advertising, meetings with voters, and charity.

First Deputy Chairman of the Regional Council, Yehor Ustynov

On February 4, 2021, at the congress of the political party “Opposition Platform - For Life,” they decided to nominate Yehor Ustynov for the by-elections in the constituency No. 184. Yehor Ustynov is the current Deputy Chairman of the Kherson Regional Council and the Chairman of the Kherson Regional Organization of the “Opposition Platform - For Life” political party. The candidate has been actively using outdoor advertising and local media; he also regularly visited the communities of the district.

Deputy Chairman of the Regional Council, Hennadiy Lahuta

On March 20, at the congress of Ihor Kolykhayev’s party “We are here to live,” Hennadiy Lahuta was nominated as a candidate for the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine in constituency 184. Since 2020, Hennadiy Lahuta has been leading Ihor Kolykhayev’s party “We are here to live.”Currently, he is the incumbent deputy chairman of the Kherson Regional Council. The candidate is represented through a panoply of communication channels: street boards, print media, stories in local news, and posts on social media. The charity fund of Ihor Kolykhayev “We are here to live” intensified its activities in favor of the candidate. The constituency actually includes business assets of the mayor of Kherson (Prodexim Trading House LLC).

Ivan Vinnyk, a People’s Deputy of the 8th convocation

The possible participation in the elections has been informed on Facebook by Ivan Vinnyk, a People’s Deputy of the 8th convocation from the “Petro Poroshenko Bloc” political party. In 2019, he ran in the constituency as a self-nominated candidate, but was only able to gain the third place. Ivan Vinnyk has not lived in Ukraine for over a year. According to him, he now stays in the United States as a second-year student of two Master’s programs. Currently, the candidate is not active in the district; the activity is limited to a few posts on his personal Facebook page. Ivan Vinnyk has had the experience of defending his election result through the district courts in the 2012 parliamentary elections. Besides, the establishment of the results was accompanied with the attacking the DEC by Nova Kakhovka residents.

Ihor Tokovenko, Representative of the “Popular Will” party

On June 17, Ihor Tokovenko, a representative of the “Popular Will” political party, began his “tour” of constituency 184. He travels to the settlements of the district and holds meetings with residents. According to the website of the political force, Ihor Tokovenko is the head of the Dnipropetrovsk party organization, a trade union leader, and a human rights activist in the field of labor law.

Mykola Dmytruk, a People’s Deputy of the 7th convocation

Mykola Dmytruk, a People’s Deputy of the 7th convocation from the “Party of Regions,” presently, a deputy of the Kherson regional council from the political party “Nash Kray” (lit. – Our Land). The potential candidate is represented in the constituency on outdoor advertising posts; he has been actively usin print media and meetings with voters.

He is the chairman of the Steering committee at “Kamyansky” PJSC that is growing grapes and making wine. His wife, Olena, on the other hand, is engaged in the confectionery and flour business in the constituency (Garant PITF).

Serhiy Khlan, a People’s Deputy of the 8th convocation

Sergey Khlan can stand as a candidate from the “European Solidarity” political party. He was a People’s Deputy of the 8th convocation in constituency No. 185. Presently, he is a deputy of the Kherson regional council and chairman of the Kherson territorial organization of the “European Solidarity” political party. Serhiy Khlan does not rule out his nomination by the party that will elect a candidate at primaries . So far, his activity in the district has been low.

Serhiy Khlan owns the Zlatodar PE, and is the director of DEMETRA-TRADE LLC, located in Kakhovka district. They grow grain and industrial crops.

Yuriy Odarchenko, a People’s Deputy of the 8th convocation

The “Batkivshchyna” All-Ukrainian Union political party is equipped with a political “heavyweight” of the Kherson region, Yuri Odarchenko . He is a current deputy of the Kherson regional council. In 2016, he already won the by-elections in constituency 183. Odarchenko’s candidacy in the elections of autumn 2021 in constituency 184 is quite probable.

Kateryna Odarchenko, leader of the National Platform party

Leaflets with photos of Kateryna Odarchenko, the leader of the National Platform party, and a call to support the “Our Priority: New Jobs” program have been widely distributed in the district. In addition, on her Facebook profile, Kateryna wrote about plans to run for constituency 184. Kateryna Odarchenko is the daughter of Yuri Odarchenko, a member of the Kherson Regional Council from the “Batkivshchyna.”

The collective image of the future candidates and their political background speaks of the ongoing challenges for democratic elections. As before, the fight against bribery, or attempts by local authorities and businesses to illegally influence the course of elections, and excessive politicization of election commissions remains a pertinent issue. More or less effective legal mechanisms have already been established to avoid the past incidents, but the subjects of the electoral process should be willing to use them.

Yevheniy Hladky,

observation coordinator of the OPORA Civil Network for the elections in the Kherson region

specially for ZN.UA.