Why Nationalist Parties are So “Unpopular” in Ukraine?

It is commonly asserted by the Maidan supporting crowd that nationalist parties in Ukraine, like Svoboda and the Right Sector, do not score election victories, and therefore the accusation of there being a prevalent and socially accepting attitude towards radical nationalism is false. But they fail to mention the almost complete absence of ideological parties in Ukrainian top politics. And I have a theory of why this is?

Elections require a lot of money and electoral base, and this is even further accentuated in Ukraine, where the population is very poor and generally apathetic and distrustful towards politicians. The result of this is that the only parties represented in Ukrainian parliament are oligarch projects with an unclear ideology but good financial backing. Svoboda actually had some notable electoral support, and even won a majority on a regional level in Western Ukraine, and all this was when it was allegedly cultivated by the oligarchs before the Euromaidan. After the Maidan, in which Svoboda took active part, it became useless and embarrassing to the new regime, and quickly faded from top politics.

Parties such as Bloc of Petro Poroshenko, or Bloc of Yulia Tymoshenko, or Narodny Front, do not have a clearly defined ideology, and therefore can be filled with any ideological content the leaders see fit. It therefore begs a question of how much of radical nationalist ideology do these parties espouse. For instance, Poroshenko has been very actively promoting nationalist causes regarding the supremacy of the Ukrainian language, unification and independence of the Ukrainian Church, and promotion of symbols and “heroes” of Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA).

The problem of rehabilitation of radical nationalism in Ukraine should not be dismissed as a disinformation by red herrings like the electoral failures of a certain political party. Electoral success depends upon factors such as money and the size of membership, Ukrainian radical nationalist parties do not have either in abundance. However, that does not mean radical Ukrainian nationalism does not factor in Ukrainian society.

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