One of the most striking trends in the early parliamentary elections of Ukraine is the party lists updating by the leading political forces and establishing the new parties that aim to take the leadership in Ukrainian politics. This trend has given young people an opportunity to try themselves in the political arena. This also touched upon the Ukrainian Muslims’ community which is actively involved in the civil society’s life, especially after the Revolution of Dignity.
In previous years, the Mejlis, the Crimean Tatars’ representative body that traditionally plays an active role in politics, was in fact the main representative of Ukrainian Muslims in the government. During the parliamentary campaigns, the Mejlis suggested its candidates for the lists of various parties and called Crimean Tatars up to support these political forces. The internal consolidation of the Crimean Tatar people enabled the Mejlis to provide the parties with some electoral support, first of all in the Crimea. Members of the representative body were regularly elected to the Crimean parliament and the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, representing various parties and political associations. However, over the past five years, the internal political field of Ukraine has undergone significant changes - this has affected the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people and the entire Muslim community of Ukraine.
In response to the new political situation in the country, representatives of Muslims joined the election campaign. First of all, the Mejlis had to change its tactics: Previously, candidates from the Crimean Tatars almost always went to the Parliament, being in the list of one party, but before these elections, the Mejlis put forward its representatives in the lists of several political forces.
At the previous election, Mustafa Dzhemilev, famous dissident, old-timer of Ukrainian politics, and former head of the Crimean Tatar’s Mejlis, closed the top five in Poroshenko’s Bloc list. He is going to enter the new Parliament, being the member of the same political force, which polls has fell down and it was rebranded. In the lists of “European Solidarity” Mustafa Dzhemilev has the 6th number. Ahtem Chiygoz, the deputy chairman of the Crimean Tatar’s Mejlis is only two positions lower, at the 8th place. During the presidential campaign, he was Petro Poroshenko’s electioneering agent and repeatedly spoke publicly in his support. Unlike Mustafa Dzhemilev, Ahtem Chiygoz is running to the Ukrainian Parliament for the first time.
Refat Chubarov,the Mejlis chairman and the experienced Crimean Tatar politician, unexpectedly got into the top five of Syla i Chest’ (‘Strength and Honor”- transl.) political party headed by Ihor Smeshko. Chubarov is a now-parliamentarian and got into the Parliament as a BPP member. At the current Rada’s convocation, Refat Chubarov is a member of the Committee on the Human Rights, National Minorities and Interethnic Relations. It was him, who explained the Mejlis’ viewpoint regarding the Crimean Tatars entering into the lists of various political forces. He also confirmed that he had received invitations from three parties, but he chose “Strength and Honor”, since Smeshko’s plan to de-occupy the Crimea has something in common with the Mejlis viewpoint.
Emine Dzhaparova (Emine Dzheppar), the current Deputy Minister of Information Policy, is running for the Parliament as a member of the new political party “Groysman’s Ukrainian Strategy”. In 2014, PM Groysman got into the Verkhovna Rada as a member of Poroshenko’s Bloc list, but these elections he decided to promote his own political force. Emine Dzhaparova received the 4th number in the party list. Until 2014, she worked as the TV presenter at ATR channel, and since February 2014 as a journalist at Radio Svoboda, after that she was an adviser to the Minister of Information Policy. In the spring, 2016, she got the post of the Deputy Minister. This is her first experience of running for the highest legislative body of the country.
Another Crimean Tatar, Gayana Yuksel, the Mejlis presidium member, also runs for the Verkhovna Rada for the first time. Until recently, she headed the QHA News Agency, and now she is an advisor to the Minister of Youth and Sports. Gayana Yuksel joined the Party of Greens of Ukraine (Partiia Zelenykh Ukraiiny) with the 14th number in its list. And, although, the party hardly have a chance to get into the Parliament, the fact she has been included to the political rally for the seats in the Parliament is significant itself.
There are also a lot of Muslim candidates, who are not members of the Mejlis. Dinara Gabibullaeva, young political activist, chairman of the NGO “Solidarity Youth” (Solidarna Molod’) is running for the Parliament with the 36th number of the “European Solidarity” list. The woman comes from an Azerbaijani family, was born in Dnipro, and managed to participate in several projects, aimed at developing political education and youth culture. According to her, she is an “ambitious politician.”
Candidates of Muslim origin or those, who declare their belonging to Islam, are running to the Parliament as members of the other parties too. Among them are both: well-known people in their networks, and those, information about whom is a little. Among them is the Turkish businessman Kadem Ergül (No. 67 in the “Strength and Honor” party), Elhan Veliev, President of the Combat Sambo Federation (No. 51 in the list of Medvedchuk’s Opposition Platform), Rustam Azizov, head of the Federation of Greco-Roman Wrestling of Poltava region (No. 83 in the list of Lyashko’s Radical Part), head of the Association of Arab Physicians of Ukraine, surgeon Rami Abu Shamsia (No. 17 in the Patriot party), Timur Tashtanov, Secretariat Officer of Cabinet of Ministers, and others.
Muslims are the most widely represented in the lists of a new political force - the Holos party of Svyatoslav Vakarchuk. Rustem Umerov, well-known Crimean Tatar businessman, delegate of the Crimean Tatars’ Kurultay, received the 18th number at the Holos list. The young politician (Rustem is 37 years old. - Ed.) was involved in social and political activities when he was a student, then he was the founder of the Crimea Development Fund. Later Rustem Umerov became an adviser to Mustafa Dzhemilev on economic issues, accompanied him during official visits and receptions. Today he is one of the most successful Crimean Tatar businessmen and philanthropists. Rustem Umerov is ASTEM Executive Director. This company works in the fields of information technology, communications and infrastructure, operating in 10 countries.
A well-known public, and human rights activist Tamila Tasheva, has 26th number in the Holos list. First of all she is known as a co-founder and acting head of the CrimeaSOS public organisation. Prior to that, Tasheva worked as a PR manager for the TIK group, but after the annexation of the Crimea she focused on public and human rights activities. So far, she is one of the most ambitious activists in the field of protecting the rights of internally displaced people, and keeping the “Crimean issue” on the international agenda. If she is elected as a people's deputy, and that is quite possible, Tamila Tasheva is going to continue activities in the same direction.
Dilyaver Saidakhmetov is a Crimean Tatar journalist, author and presenter of several television projects (No. 73), and Mykhailo Yakubovych, well-known Ukrainian religious scholar, translator of the Koran into Ukrainian (No. 76) were included in the list of Holos. The chairman of Kherson Mejlis, Ibragim Suleymanov was also at the low end of this list (No. 154). This characterizes the general principle of forming the Holos list: young active professionals who are successful in what they do.
Significant changes in the internal Ukrainian politics, the request for a cardinal change of its image had influence on the Muslim part of civil society. Muslims with an active social and political position were involved in the election campaign, finding themselves in the lists of at least half of the political forces. Most of them run for pro-European democratic and patriotic parties, and that, in turn, characterizes the Ukrainian Muslim community. There is not much time left before the elections, but according to the latest ratings, there will be at least a few Muslim deputies in the new Parliament.