Ukraine deal

The deal signed earlier today in Ukraine calls for a return to the constitution instituted after the Orange Revolution protests (but later reversed). Those provisions significantly weakened the presidency–mainly by giving the president essentially no discretion in the choice of a prime minister, who was defined as the candidate of the legislative majority. On the other hand, the president under that constitution still retained control over key ministries, such as interior and defense, as well as a veto requiring two thirds to override. So the protesters are right to be skeptical, even if this is a big concession by President Yanukovych.

The agreement also mentions reforms to electoral laws, but does not clearly address the electoral system itself, which is obviously critical inasmuch as it determines how votes are translated into seats in empowering the very legislative majority that would appoint the PM. And, as I noted before, the current system is highly disproportional and personalistic, and these features allowed the pro-Yanukovych bloc to win a majority, counting pro-Yanukovych “independents” (bearing no party label), despite the president’s Party of Regions having barely a quarter of the votes. Of course, with the renewed mobilization of the opposition, it is less clear who would benefit from the current system’s disproportionality, but the opposition would seem to have a clear interest in a return to the party-list system used in 2006 and 2007. And that system’s proportionality would presumably offer the pro-Yanukovych forces a hedge against possible voter retributions whenever the new legislative election is held.

The agreement also only specifically refers to early presidential elections.

Obviously a situation still in flux.

11 thoughts on “Ukraine deal

  1. And, as an aside, I learned earlier today that the current US Ambassador to Ukraine is someone I knew in college, Geoffrey Pyatt. He is the voice on the now-infamous “f— the EU” tape of Victoria Nuland.

    Based on my recollections of Geoff as a classmate in courses on foreign policy, US policy is in good hands there.


  2. Flux indeed, as the Ukrainian parliament has just voted to impeach Yanukovich, calling an election for 25 May.


  3. “Flux” may have been my biggest understatement yet in eight and a half years of blogging (which, incidentally, began just after returning from a visit to Ukraine.)

    It looks like at least 100 of the Party of Regions deputies defected. His “party” was a house of cards. And apparently, the vaunted “regions” of the old regime’s base are collapsing, too, as later reports are that the mayor and governor of Kharkiv fled (to Russia?) and that the police of Denpropetrovsk said they were with “the people”. Maybe only the Donetsk region remains with Yanukovych. And then there is the matter of Crimea. Yes, still in flux, so I had better not say more!


  4. Matthew, Sorry that I blamed about the workload but still spent a lot of time following the news. I just can’t help.
    When looking at what happened in Ukraine, Venezuela, and post-Mubarak Egypt, I think it is increasingly clear that a powerful presidency is a big problem for countries with high risk of abuse. However, the protests in these countries never seem to seriously aim at making their countries more parliamentary, but more focus on changing the president, which I really doubt would help.
    Even the older Ukraine constitution that they are reinstalling still sounds too presidential to me. Having control over the Interior Ministry is a big source of power abuse. And I totally agree that their electoral system should be more proportional, not just for benefiting the oppositions who also had some bad records, but simply to make sure none can make unitary decisions.
    It is so frustrating when something that scholars agree on cannot reach the field of revolution. So Matthew, since the ambassador is your friend, is it possible to make these concerns of yours heard by the Ukrainians? Or even by other countries that are undergoing the similar process? I’m not sure how to operate this, maybe through a joint letter signed by a bunch of top institutional scholars?
    I mean, this is a high-stake moment. It’ll be regrettable if the institutional theories just stay in the journals.


    • I agree, Huey! I have been trying to figure out if I can contact Geoff, although I doubt the ambassador has much influence over institutional choice.

      You might be interested to know that there were extensive comments on the constitutional revisions provided by the Council of Europe back in 2005, only some of which were heeded.


      • Also, I’d be somewhat surprised if they did not reinstate the 2006-07 electoral system, or at least replace the current MMM system. The current system, which was also the pre-Orange Revolution system, is fully associated with the Kuchma-Yanukovych camp. That was system was nationwide closed-list PR with a threshold (3%, I think). I would never advocate a 450-seat PR district, but at least it would prevent the mafia candidates from returning under the guise of being “independents”, which would be very plausible under MMM, with its 225 single-seat districts.


  5. As you might remember, I’m even more wary of the idea of a nationwide districts, particularly in the case of a country (and legislature) as large as Ukraine’s. They should simply divide the seats among the country’s oblasts and other subdivisions and apply PR there; the smallest district would be Sebastopol with 4 seats, the largest: Donetsk with about 45, average DM: 16.7.


  6. I don’t think there is an electoral-system specialist anywhere who actually would recommend a single nationwide district for a large country. In fact, I do not know too many who would advise it for even a relatively small country!

    I am at least as skeptical, however, of using existing administrative districts as electoral districts, because variation in M as great as your example, JD, can also have some perverse effects. The biggest districts should be sub-divided, but there appears to be considerable reluctance around the world of PR systems to doing so.


    • You are right, of course. With the two smallest districts merged with others, and the two biggest split up, the DM varies only from about 10 to 28. (This is all so easy to calculate due to the population:seat ration being so close to 100,000:1).


      • May be that would be a good rule of thumb against too much Monroe-Rose-variance : the biggest PR district should be smaller than three times the smallest district.

        [MSS corrected the link; thanks Bancki, as I had forgotten that old post, and this topic has been on my mind this week, as my seminar students read and discussed the Monroe-Rose article!]


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