Three Wisdoms From Marrying Activism with Elections

In September in our annual report, we hypothesized that 1) the trend of activists’ massive running for office, started in 2019 parliamentary elections, will continue; 2) civil society activists will mostly run with junior political forces; 3) due to a number of factors, including lack of coordinated action, broken social ties and eroding social capital, many activists will not succeed.

As the local elections wrapped up, we can now conclude that:

  1. A large number of civil society activists ran for office and were elected to city and oblast councils. Elected activists come with experience in charitable activities, culture, and sports, and have prior political experience. Close to one-third of the new Kyiv city council count former activist members with CSO, charity, investigative journalism, public affairs background. In the regions, the activists were elected both to councils of oblast capitals (Kharkiv, Kherson, Lutsk, Poltava, Lviv, Ternopil, Chernivtsi) and to councils of other major cities (Obukhiv, Irpin, Chuhuiv, Kakhovka, Mariupol).
  2. The majority of activists ran with new or local political parties, but those who won a seat were elected on tickets of one of the main parliamentary parties, such as “Servant of the People” or “European Solidarity.” Many activists who ran with “Holos”, or other fringe parties, such as “Syla Liudei” or “Democratic Alliance” did not make it often because the party they were running with was missing the legal threshold.
  3. Despite activists’ widespread presence in newly formed local bodies, many who ran for office did not win a seat. Those who gained a valuable experience with no apparent electoral success typically lacked strong political ties to major parties, had difficulty getting voters’ attention in the crammed media space. Most of these “honorable mentions” either lacked political experience or were up against historical and vested political challengers. These activists although not as policy-makers at this time, continue shaping their communities’ policy agenda and outcomes by preserving their motivation for social change and driving engaged citizens across the country.