Political party development in Ukraine

Question

What has been the pattern of political party development in Ukraine over the last 10 years and how have these parties performed in recent elections. We need to understand better who the main political parties have been over recent years, how they have changed, amalgamated and disbanded; who their leadership has been; their sources of finance; their performance in elections; which of them have formed alliances across party lines; who their membership is and particularly where this is drawn from regionally/urban/rural etc. within the country.

Summary

There are a combination of institutional and structural factors that account for party development in Ukraine. They include:

  • The weakness of ideology in political parties
  • Poor incentives for party institutionalisation due to the design and instability of the institutional rules of the game
  • Extensive use of state administrative resources by regime-supported parties
  • The dominance of party leaders at the expense of internal party democracy
  • The vast influence of financial industrial groups (FIGs) the vast influence of various FIGs on parties’ formation, operation, decision-making, legislative activity and voting records in parliament.

Regional differentiation is considered to be significantly more important in explaining patterns of party support than rural/urban distinctions. Regional differentiation of party support and the limited ability of any party to establish a truly national electorate has been a persistent feature of Ukrainian parliamentary elections. Regional identities were mobilised by parties during election campaigns in the absence of coherent ideological or programmatic party differentiation.

Political parties remain heavily dependent upon the presence of a charismatic leader to win votes, and the most successful parties/coalitions of the last decade have been excessively personalised. Parties therefore often function as the personal ‘project’ of a particular individual, and even the core ‘team’ can be quite fluid and change affiliation between elections.

Ukrainian voters have little idea about the ideological or programmatic orientation of the parties they vote for, instead tending to be guided by the ‘personal factor’ of the leader, which is not surprising given the amorphous positioning of parties and frequent changes in stated policy preferences of leaders. Given the dramatic restructuring of the party space during 2014, it is likely to be even harder for voters to identify the orientation of parties.

Enquirer: