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The Discourse of Moderation and Cohesion as an Effective Electoral Tool: Sluha Narodu in Ukraine’s 2019 Parliamentary Campaign

Part of the Federalism and Internal Conflicts book series (FEINCO)


The July 2019 Ukrainian parliamentary elections were won by newly elected president Volodymyr Zelenskyi’s recently established party, Sluha Narodu. With Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the violent conflict in Donbas since 2014, the stage had been set for a belligerent electoral campaign centred on designating external and internal enemies. In Ukraine this could have been expected to involve references to underlying ethnic, regional, linguistic and memory political cleavages. However, Sluha Narodu did the opposite. It avoided mention of such cleavages, and, although vague on specifics, signalled willingness to compromise and work for peace in the eastern areas of Ukraine. Drawing on cleavage and political party theory, this chapter offers a detailed discourse analysis of the pre-election campaign, in order to explain how Sluha Narodu managed to succeed with its moderate message despite the heated rhetorical climate of the campaign. We argue that the party responded to the quest for cohesion and, paradoxically, gained trustworthiness from not being more programmatic. The chapter brings new insights into the role of cleavages in Ukrainian politics: Sluha Narodu’s electoral success shows that cleavages are not either frozen or manifested in mobile fault lines, but may also be rhetorically annulled.


  • Ukraine
  • Political parties
  • Cleavages
  • Discourse analysis
  • Zelenskyi
  • Sluha Narodu

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Lytovchenko, A., Boiko, D., Yashkina, D., Holm-Hansen, J. (2021). The Discourse of Moderation and Cohesion as an Effective Electoral Tool: Sluha Narodu in Ukraine’s 2019 Parliamentary Campaign. In: Aasland, A., Kropp, S. (eds) The Accommodation of Regional and Ethno-cultural Diversity in Ukraine. Federalism and Internal Conflicts. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.

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