(JTA) – Representatives of Ukraine’s Jewish communities said they were pleased with the stinging defeat of nationalist candidates in parliamentary elections.
In Sunday’s parliamentary elections – the first since the ouster of president Viktor Yanukovych in February in a revolution that triggered a territorial conflict with Russia – the far-right Svoboda party saw its take halved from 10 percent of the vote in 2012 to under the five-point threshold for seats, a count of 99 percent of the votes showed.
The newly-formed Radical Party won 8 percent of the vote but “the small number of right-wing radicals” who made it into parliament “cannot have any significant effect on the situation” there, Josef Zissels, head of the Vaad Association of Jewish Communities and Organizations of Ukraine, wrote in an email to JTA.
Vyacheslav Likhachev, a researcher on anti-Semitism for the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress, said Svoboda won six seats in district-based elections, compared to its 37 lawmakers elected from districts in 2012. Half of the 450-member parliament is elected through proportional representation and half through district-based elections.
Likhachev said the results refute oft-repeated claims by Kremlin officials, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, that the revolution was led by and empowered neo-Nazis and anti-Semites.
“Russian propaganda speaks of a ‘Ukrainian Fascist junta,’ but in reality there are more voters for the far-right in the European Union than in Ukraine,” he added.
The revolution against Yanukovych started over his alleged corruption and perceived allegiance to Russia, which critics said blocked Ukraine’s relations with the European Union.
Roughly two thirds of the vote Sunday went to parties that support fostering stronger ties with the West, including Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk’s People’s Front party, which got 22.16 percent, and President Petro Poroshenko’s Bloc with 21.83 percent, followed by the Samopomich party led by Lviv mayor Andriy Sadoviy.
Among the new lawmakers elected to the Verkhovna Rada, the Ukrainian parliament, was Vadim Rabinovich, a Jewish businessman who ran on the ticket of the Opposition Bloc, which received slightly more than 9 percent of the vote.
“The country has received a strong pro-Ukrainian parliament,” Rabinovich, who founded the All-Ukrainian Jewish Congress, told media on Tuesday.
Another well-known Jew who will serve as a lawmaker for the first time is Volodymyr Groisman, former mayor of Vinnitza who was appointed deputy prime minister this year.
Oleksandr Feldman, president of the Ukrainian Jewish Committee, will also serve in parliament after being reelected as an independent candidate from the Kharkiv region, newsru.ua reported.