Paul D'Anieri, Understanding Ukrainian Politics: Power, Politics, and Institutional Design, 2007.



In November 2004 the eyes of the world focused on Ukraine, as the brightly colored banners of the Orange Revolution were unfurled in snowy Kyiv. The sight of hundreds of thousands of young Ukrainians braving freezing weather to overturn the results of a rigged election was inspiring. Equally inspiring was the courage of opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko, who survived a poisoning attempt that ravaged his skin, and continued on to lead the democratic reform movement. The Orange Revolution promised a fundamentally new era of democracy in a country that had never really experienced it. It was seen as finally bringing Ukraine into Europe after centuries of externally enforced separation.

Yet, within a few short months after the Orange Revolution, disillusionment set in, as many of the expected reforms failed to materialize. Corruption prosecutions against the previous leaders were delayed. The review of illegally privatized companies bogged down. Trade legislation needed for Ukraine to join the World Trade Organization was defeated. Several of Yushchenko's cabinet ministers did not give up their seats in parliament, as required by law. Yushchenko's own twenty-year-old son was seen driving about Kyiv in a BMW worth over $100,000. And Yushchenko split bitterly with his partner in revolution, the charismatic Yulia Tymoshenko. A sense that little had changed, or that not enough had changed, quickly emerged. In March 2006, Viktor Yanukovych's Party of Regions, apparently doomed after its effort to steal the 2004 election, won a large plurality in a free and fair parliamentary election. Finally, in August 2006, Viktor Yushchenko agreed to nominate Viktor Yanukovych for prime minister. In the eyes of many observers, the Orange Revolution was undone.1

How did the Orange Revolution run into difficulties so quickly? Has the pace of reform merely been slowed, or is there a more fundamental problem? What factors in Ukrainian politics continue to hamper the construction of liberal democracy? The optimism of 2004 appears to have been unwarranted, but it is not clear that the despair of 2006 is based on firmer analytical

This book seeks to answer these questions through a careful analysis of Ukraine's political system. By examining Ukrainian politics prior to the Orange Revolution, we can see the extent of the obstacles to reform. The mis-judgment made by many within and outside Ukraine was that Leonid Kuchma, Ukraine's president since 1994, was the heart of the problem, and that replacing him would be a large part of the solution. This book shows that reform in Ukraine is hindered by deep problems in both its political institutions and in the concentration of political power. Kuchma certainly took advantage of these characteristics, but he did not, by himself, create them, and they endure after him.

There are no insurmountable barriers to Ukraine becoming a vibrant democracy, integrated with Europe, and thriving economically. However, for its political problems to be solved, they must be clearly understood.

The Puzzle: Authoritarianism in Ukraine

The faltering of the Orange Revolution surprised most observers, but it is not the first time that Ukraine surged toward consolidated democracy, only to get bogged down. By the end of 1994, Ukraine had established itself as among the most democratic of the post-Soviet countries. In parliamentary and presidential elections earlier that year, incumbent legislators fared poorly, and the incumbent president, Leonid Kravchuk, was defeated. A peaceful transfer of power was never in doubt. Competitive elections and a relatively open contest for power were taken for granted by all participants. This peaceful transition contrasted starkly with events in Russia, where in October 1993, President Yeltsin disbanded the parliament and ordered a military assault on it. When Ukraine held another round of parliamentary elections in 1998, many observers concluded that the country had indeed established itself as a "consolidated" democracy. Political scientist Samuel Huntington has defined a consolidated democracy as one that has had two successful transfers of power.2

By 1999, however, Ukrainian democracy was showing signs of strain. In presidential elections that year, the administration of President Leonid Kuchma used a variety of means to foil serious competition. By 2001, when Kuchma was implicated in the murder of an opposition journalist, one could no longer speak of Ukraine as a "democracy" without adding substantial qualification. Terms such as "delegative democracy"3 and "competitive authoritarianism"4 were used to characterize Ukraine.

The optimism engendered by the Orange Revolution should have been tempered by the knowledge that a similar optimism had prevailed a decade earlier, but was followed by the steady erosion of democracy under Leonid Kuchma. With the resurgence of Viktor Yanukovych, despair has replaced optimism, but it is not clear whether that despair is warranted, for Yanukovych's return to power represented the playing out of a largely democratic and legal process.5 The key question in Ukraine's next phase is whether its future will be dominated by the kind of politics that characterized Yanukovych's rise under Leonid Kuchma, or by the kind that characterized his return under free and fair elections. If Ukraine is to consolidate the advances of the Orange Revolution, it is necessary to understand why democracy was not consolidated in the 1990s. Leonid Kuchma was only part of the problem.

Ukraine's Democratic Shortcomings

While Ukraine had many of the attributes of a democracy after 1994, it did not fit the standard definitions used in political science. Adam Przeworski defines a democracy simply as a polity in which parties can lose elections.6 By this he means that parties have confidence that, if they lose one election, they will still be able to compete in the next one. In Ukraine's 2004 elections, both the ruling group and the opposition feared that if they lost the election they would lose all. Naturally, in such "all or nothing" circumstances, actors have strong incentives to do whatever it takes to prevail.

Robert Dahl argues that democratic institutions are intended above all to provide for political competition that is constrained by rules. The importance of political competition explains why civil liberties such as freedom of the press and freedom of speech are so important.7 Much of Ukrainian politics after 1999 was occupied with efforts to limit political competition (or to predetermine its outcomes) through a variety of measures. These included interference with civil liberties, harassment of the opposition, and control of the media. The goal of many of Kuchma's policies was to ensure that there was no serious competition for power. He succeeded in large measure, but not completely.

Samuel Huntington states that "elections, open, free and fair, are the essence of democracy, the inescapable sine qua non."8 Ukraine has had elections, but until 2006 they were not open, free, or fair. Guillermo O'Donnell takes it for granted that democratic institutions "preclude the use or threat of force and the outcomes that this would generate."9 Force and the threat of it have been a central part of politics in Ukraine. The implicit threat of force was a key part of Kuchma's governing strategy, and the explicit threat of force by thousands of protestors was crucial in ejecting Kuchma's designated successor from power. In these ways, Ukraine before the Orange Revolution did not meet the basic definition of "democracy." While Ukraine after the Orange Revolution does appear to be a democracy, we should probably withhold a definitive judgment.

Explaining the Erosion of Ukrainian Democracy

In order to understand the challenges in building democracy in Ukraine today, we need to understand what undermined it from 1994 to 2004. Authoritarianism emerged in spite of contextual and institutional factors that should have promoted democratization after 1994. Two contextual factors were present. The economy was improving, and the Western countries were actively supporting Kuchma's announced reform programs. Moreover, Ukraine appeared to have established the institutional basis for democracy: It had a constitution modeled on Western examples, a parliament characterized by vibrant debate, and a plurality of political parties.

Despite these favorable factors, democracy eroded rapidly. This weakening of democracy, despite a favorable climate and appropriate institutions, is a central puzzle motivating this book. Solving that puzzle will be essential to assessing Ukraine's chances for consolidating democracy in the coming years. Again since the Orange Revolution, Ukraine faces similarly favorable circumstances, but formidable challenges as well, and again the outcome is not predetermined.

What were the factors that undermined Ukraine's democracy, despite the favorable environment and the apparently appropriate institutions? Do these forces continue to exist after the Orange Revolution? Answering these questions is the central goal of this book. Therefore, the book examines the major institutions and processes of Ukrainian politics, both before and after the revolution. It also seeks to provide an understanding of a broader problem in postcommunist politics, the advent of systems that have regular elections, but are not democratic.

This book will attempt to show how politics in Ukraine actually "works." It also, however, provides an explanation of why Ukrainian politics works this way. Why, prior to 2004, were almost all serious political disputes resolved in favor of the president? Why has the Ukrainian parliament been so weak, despite concerted efforts to strengthen its role? Why are political parties so ineffectual and transient, despite electoral laws that were intended to promote consolidation? To what extent will the political and constitutional changes of 2004 put these problems to rest?

Institutional Design Versus Power Politics

It seems that Ukraine has had reasonably designed institutions, but that somehow they have not led to liberal democracy. In many cases, the institutions have seemed inadequate to constrain the behavior of key actors (especially the president). Yet the situation is not one of anarchy. This is crucial, for a polity with imperfect enforcement of rules is very different from one with no enforceable rules at all. Most of the time, Ukraine's formal institutions do matter. Unless institutional performance improves, the Orange Revolution will likely be short-lived. Therefore a central question is: why do Ukraine's institutions seem to constrain behavior in some situations and not others?

The requirements and prohibitions of Ukraine's constitution, for example, are inconsistently enforced. And while it is easy to attribute these violations to the vague cause of the "absence of rule of law," such an explanation does not tell us why, in fact, most of the time, the constitution and laws do indeed constrain behavior. In the 2004 election dispute, legal procedures governed the process; in a referendum to amend the constitution in 2000, existing constitutional processes were largely ignored. We cannot say that the rules, laws, and institutions are uniformly irrelevant. Rather they seem to have more "grip" in some situations than others. If we are to understand the nature of politics in Ukraine, and the chances of successfully building democracy there, we must account for this variation.

Answering these questions is not an academic exercise. In the wake of the Orange Revolution, there is a "window of opportunity" for political reform to regain momentum, and for Ukraine to begin moving again in the direction of liberal democracy. Both government and opposition, as well as those who would advise them, need to understand why Ukraine has not achieved liberal democracy, and what the obstacles are. Only then can they make intelligent choices as they recast political institutions and political practices in the country.

Despite the importance of these questions, they have received much less attention than they deserve. Both Ukrainians and Western observers have focused on near-term issues, primarily the 2004 election. The conventional wisdom was that the coming to power of Viktor Yushchenko would automatically solve Ukraine's problems, and that the Orange Revolution was therefore over by the end of December 2004.

While there is no reason to doubt that Ukraine will be better off under Yushchenko than Kuchma, the focus on individual politicians is dangerous, for it deflects attention from underlying problems that will remain in place regardless of who is president. If Yushchenko is to build a liberal democracy in Ukraine, serious change will be needed. Two institutional changes already adopted—the reduction of the president's powers and the adoption of a fully proportional election law—will do more to alter the long-term prospects for Ukraine than the election of a president who will last two terms at most. If Positive changes introduced by Yushchenko are to endure after he leaves °nice, both the rules of the game and the balance of power in Ukrainian Politics will need to fundamentally change.

Specific Empirical Questions

In order to answer the broad explanatory questions elaborated above, we need to address a series of specific empirical questions about the working of Ukrainian politics. These questions will structure the book, with each of the empirical chapters focusing primarily on one of the key questions. It is imperative that we search for the underlying as well as the immediate causes of political behavior in Ukraine. For example, in examining how Leonid Kuchma was able to win reelection in 1999 despite his low popularity, one clear answer is that the opposing candidates were badly hampered by an inability to reach the public through the media. While this is true, and well documented, we need to take the next step and ask how the media were so easily controlled, and why opposition parties were unable to do anything about it despite their common interest in changing these practices.

To provide a second example, if we ask why the parliament has been so ineffective, we can answer that it has been ineffective because it has fragmented into many small and amorphous factions. But this answer prompts two further lines of inquiry. First, there are numerous countries, such as Israel, where numerous small parties routinely coalesce to form governing majorities. Why does the opposite seem to happen in Ukraine? Second, to the extent that Ukraine's parliamentary party system is fragmented, is it because public opinion is fragmented, and therefore elects a fragmented parliament? Or is it because there are particular institutional incentives against forming more durable coalitions?

Key Questions to Be Addressed

  1. How did the process of Ukraine's transition from Soviet rule, which was negotiated rather than revolutionary, constrain subsequent political change? (Chapter Four)
  2. How do Ukraine's societal cleavages make democratic rule more difficult? (Chapter Five)
  3. Does Ukraine's constitution provide a sound institutional basis for liberal democracy? (Chapter Six)
  4. To what extent has Ukraine's electoral law been responsible for parliamentary fragmentation? Will changes that took effect in 2006 improve the situation? (Chapter Seven)
  5. To what extent do the parliament's internal rules and procedures inhibit its effective function? (Chapter Eight)
  6. How and why was Kuchma able to use "power politics" to shape institutions and to use the formal rules as a political weapon? What are the prospects for "power politics" in post-Orange Ukraine? (Chapter Nine)
  7. How does Ukraine compare to other postcommunist and post-authoritarian democracies that have democratic institutions but authoritarian politics? (Chapter Ten)
  8. What are the likely effects of the changes that accompanied the Orange Revolution? What further changes are required to prevent another reversion to authoritarianism? (Chapter Eleven)

Broad Themes

We can point to three broad themes that cut across these questions, and will therefore be examined in more than one chapter of the book. A first central theme is to explain the fragmentation and ineffectiveness of the parliament. Under Kuchma, parliament was ineffectual because it failed to produce legislation on the key issues facing the country, and also because it allowed much of its prerogative to be taken over by the president. From the Orange Revolution to the 2006 parliamentary elections, parliament was more independent from the executive, but remained badly fragmented. Following the 2006 parliamentary elections, an extended period of bargaining was needed to form a governing coalition. The long-term prospects for the functioning of parliament remain unclear. The inefficacy of the parliament is central to Ukrainian politicaLlife, and it would appear to be a crucial obstacle in the establishment of a more liberal democracy.10 It is hard to imagine how an effective democratic government can govern in a large society without an effective legislature. In fact, there is no example of a successful democracy anywhere in the world that does not have a functioning legislature. Legislative dysfunction is seen as a major cause of the breakdown of new democracies.

The ability of a parliament to function, and the related issue of the functioning of the political party system are generally accounted for in terms of two factors: the preferences of the public (public opinion and "political culture") and the way that votes are translated into the distribution of parliamentary seats (voting rules and institutional design).

In Chapter Five, we examine the argument that societal fragmentation undermines the functioning of parliament. In this view, an ineffective parliament is seen simply as the logical extension of a divided society. If this is •rue, two momentous conclusions would follow. First, it would appear that, until such societal divisions are overcome, "normal" parliamentary democracy will be impossible. This implies both that some degree of authoritarianism might be a necessary evil in the short term, and that efforts must be undertaken to promote a consolidation of public attitudes. Both of these arguments n^ve been made in the case of Ukraine, but we shall see good reasons to doubt them.11

In 2004, the constitution and electoral laws were altered. A change to the election law replaced a mixed system (half the seats elected proportionally, and half in majoritarian districts) with a fully proportional system. Changes to the constitution substantially shifted Ukraine from a presidential to a parliamentary-presidential form of government. It remains to be seen how these changes will play out in practice. Therefore the relative weight of these two sources of parliamentary fragmentation is an important issue.

This brings us to a second broad theme: institutional design. Those who focus on political institutions contend that institutional rules can create incentives for coalition and compromise even in very diverse societies. From this perspective, if the parliament is fragmented, it is because political actors have little incentive to coalesce. Students of institutional design point out that various factors, either in the constitutional arrangements (e.g., the choice of a parliamentary or presidential form of government) or in the voting rules (majoritarian versus proportional election laws), have substantial and predictable effects on politicians' and parties' incentives to coalesce. In this view, if there is insufficient consolidation in parliament, the remedy is simply to alter either the role of the constitution or the electoral law, or both. Chapter Six considers the constitution and executive-legislative relations. Chapter Seven examines the electoral law.

Once we have addressed the effects of institutions and possible changes, a question looms that is crucial for any real discussion of change in Ukraine, or any deep understanding of politics in Ukraine. The question is, what accounts for the institutional design that we see? If formal institutional analysis can demonstrate certain potential improvements, why are such changes not adopted?

The answer is that the goal of many actors is not, first and foremost, good government in the abstract, but rather the increase of their own power and prerogatives. At first glance this might strike some as a rather cynical statement, but if one reads the Federalist Papers, for example, one sees that it is the understanding underpinning much of the design of the U.S. Constitution. We will explore several cases in which President Kuchma promoted institutional provisions intended to bolster his power. In writing the 1996 constitution, Ukraine's prodemocratic forces supported a strong presidency, because it was a way to reduce the power of the left, which at that time controlled the parliament.

While a rational choice-based institutional analysis can deduce the effects of a given set of formal rules, it cannot explain where those rules come from. To account for the origins of institutions, which at some point must be created either ex nihilo or within a framework that is only partially institutionalized, a historical analysis of the politics behind those arrangements is necessary. This point is emphasized by some of the foremost practitioners of rational choice analysis, such as William Riker, Gary Cox, and George Tsebelis.12 Tsebelis explains that there can be no rational choice analysis of institutional choice, because rational choice analysis presumes an institutional setup. It cannot therefore, explain that setup.13 Similarly, Riker contends that "institutions are no more than rules, and rules are themselves the product of social decisions."14

To understand which institutions are chosen and why, we examine a third central issue: power politics. This refers to the ability of actors to pursue their goals by going outside the established rules. In Ukraine, such power is heavily concentrated in the executive branch. It includes selective law enforcement, regulation of the economy, influence over the media, and other measures.

While societal fragmentation and institutional design might explain the inefficacy of the parliament, they do not directly explain why so much power accrued to the president, or why the institutions have been designed the way they are. In 2001, the parliament repeatedly sought to change the electoral law that would be used in the 2002 parliamentary elections, only to see proposed changes repeatedly vetoed by President Kuchma. Clearly, Kuchma felt that he benefited from the fragmentation of parliament, and sought to prevent it from-being strengthened. This argument applies equally to the adoption of the 1995 "Law on Power" and the 1996 constitution, both of which will be examined in detail.

To the extent that the effects of different institutions are clear, politicians will seek to design institutions to suit their objectives. We have seen this phenomenon over and over again in Ukraine, as political elites, envisioning partisan benefits in certain institutional formats, have sought above all to design institutions that favor themselves. If the resources in this game were evenly distributed, this might lead to a balanced political system. But if one group begins the process with extensive control of key political resources, that group can then use institutional design to solidify its hold on power. For this reason, Adam Przeworski has emphasized that systems of checks and balances are most likely to emerge when there is uncertainty about who will benefit from which future arrangements. In situations of uncertainty, actors nedge their bets by ensuring that no single institution will dominate.15

Since political actors pursue their self-interest in addition to the public good (or identify the public good with their self-interest), it is necessary to ask what determines who wins these battles. This is where politics gets truly interesting, especially in Ukraine. What resources constitute assets that can e used to win political battles, either about specific policy issues, or about "e rules of the game itself? In a Western democracy such as the United States or the United Kingdom, we think we have a good idea: votes are the main assets, and are translated into political power in readily predictable ways. From votes, and the power they convey, almost all further aspects of power are distributed, including such things as judicial appointments and < public spending. However, considerable research as well as casual observation shows that money is a key asset in gaining votes in these societies. There- , fore money creates political power in Western democracies, which is why so ', much effort is spent to raise more money and to limit its influence.

What assets create political power in Ukraine? As in the West, votes are the direct source of political office, and money is crucial to gaining them. But there is a variety of other sources of political influence in Ukraine, such , as patronage, law enforcement, and the state role in the economy, which also convey political power in multiple ways. These sources of power are disproportionately controlled by the executive branch of the government. This finding leads to the most significant argument advanced in this study: The fundamental imbalance in raw political power has been the underlying source of the more immediate problems in Ukrainian government, such as weak \ parties, selective law enforcement, and a fragmented parliament. The ways , in which Kuchma used this power are the focus of Chapter Nine. This imbal- | ance of de facto power will need to be overcome if the Orange Revolution is to succeed in the long run.

This notion of the "distribution of power" seems more at home in the J study of international politics than in the study of domestic democratization. However, the distribution of power domestically has been found to be an important factor in some studies of democratization.16 This factor is especially important in Ukraine because of the weakness of institutional rules as j a constraint on the exercise of power. It is often observed that the rule of law is weak in Ukraine, but we must move beyond that observation to ask how and why it is imperfect.

The problem in Ukraine is not just that it lacks rule o/law, but that it has rule by law, in which the law is a weapon to be selectively applied against one's adversaries. A situation in which bureaucratic and judicial decisions are subject to political interference can have very different implications, de- , pending on whether two opposing forces are equally capable of influencing those decisions, or whether one dominant force can use the law to extend ; and reinforce its power. Such conditions played a major role in the rise of ■ authoritarianism in Ukraine, and must be overcome if Ukraine is to become : truly democratic. Power politics helps to explain the weakness of the rule of law in Ukraine. A situation with poor rule of law in which decisions are arbitrary and capricious is entirely different from one in which decisions are not at all arbitrary, but are controlled by a group with a private agenda.

The "absence of the rule of law" is not simply something that just exists, like bad weather. Rather, it is something that results from the accumulated efforts of interested actors to ensure that decisions support their political interests. Where there is a relatively balanced struggle over implementation of laws and regulations, one might expect that the outcomes, even if highly politicized, will be more or less balanced. But when the levers of influence are held in the hands of one faction, the "rule of law" will favor that faction. Thus, the difference between Ukraine and the United States or the United Kingdom is not simply that there is less political pressure on bureaucrats and judges in the latter two states, but that it is more balanced.

Roots of the Problem: The Institutional Legacy of the Soviet Union

So far we have argued that the key to understanding politics in post-Soviet Ukraine is the concentration of power in the hands of the executive. This begs the question: How did so much power accrue to the executive branch? The answer lies in a fourth theme that is dealt with later in this chapter and in Chapter Four: the political and institutional legacy of the Soviet Union. This includes the institutions of the Soviet Union, the process by which it collapsed, and "the arrangements that it left behind.

The Soviet Union was characterized by two factors that have had enormous impact on the ability to create liberal democracy in its aftermath. First, the Communist Party held a monopoly on power. Soviet bureaucracies and legislatures (such as the Ukrainian Verkhovna Rada) were built upon that monopoly. While the Soviet government had the familiar tripartite division into executive, legislative, and judicial branches, there was no separation of powers in the Soviet system, either in theory or in fact. All three branches were expected to hold to a single line, defined by the executive branch and the Communist Party.

Second, the state controlled nearly the entire economy, even after Gorbachev's reforms. State control of the economy led to a vicious cycle of powerful incentives for corruption. Political authority was a necessary and sufficient condition for acquiring economic power and wealth, sometimes on a fantastic scale. Simultaneously, economic power was necessary and nearly sufficient to obtain political power. This potent combination of political and economic power came to rest among a narrow set of elites closely connected with the state apparatus. This was equally true in Russia and in the other Post-Soviet states. To put it simply, political power is highly concentrated in Ukraine because it started out that way, and because the system tends to reinforce that concentration rather than to disperse it.

If Ukraine had undergone a political revolution in 1991, the Soviet system of centralized power might have had less influence on post-Soviet Ukraine. Because Ukraine focused on national independence rather than political revolution, it built its new institutions very much within the institutional framework constructed by the Soviets (and with almost all of the same personnel). Independent Ukraine's institutions were not designed starting from a "blank slate." Unlike in Poland, there were no "roundtable talks" at which a new framework for constituting political authority was negotiated between the communists and their opponents. Nor was there any process to broadly distribute state property.

To say that authoritarianism was inevitable would be to go too far, especially because the system did not immediately move in that direction. It would be more accurate to say that the system was very vulnerable to a chief executive who sought to use the state apparatus to control both the economic and political spheres in the country. Leonid Kravchuk did not seem to be such an executive. Nor initially did Leonid Kuchma, but by 1999 he was using every lever available to use the state-economy combination to eliminate meaningful competition. One interesting question that we cannot answer, due to a lack of real data, is whether Kuchma came to power in 1994 intending to accumulate uncontested power, or whether his authoritarianism emerged later.

Alternative Explanations

In order to properly evaluate the main argument of this book, that Ukraine's slide to authoritarianism was a result of a fundamental imbalance in the distribution of political power, it is necessary to clarify the main competing explanations. Only in comparison with these hypotheses can the utility of the argument presented here be weighed meaningfully.

Two alternative explanations predominate. One derives from the "institutional design" school of comparative politics research. In this perspective, the main problem is to get the formal rules—the constitutional arrangements, electoral laws, and related arrangements—properly designed. Doing so, presumably, will best align the interests of political officeholders with those of citizens. My argument does not contradict this one, but rather finds it to be very incomplete, and hence of limited utility.

Formal institutional arrangements cannot be viewed as neutral or as a "fundamental" factor. Rather, they themselves are the products of the power and interests of the actors that design them. In that sense, the explanation is incomplete in viewing institutional design only as an independent variable and not as a dependent one. This incompleteness leads to an important distortion: viewing the problem as one of institutional design creates the impression, sometimes stated sometimes not, that the problem is a technical or intellectual one. The only challenge, in this view, is the intellectual one of how best to design the institutions to fit the conditions and the goal. The goal is assumed to be identical for everyone: a well-functioning democracy. In reality, producing democracy is not alone on most actors' agendas, or even at the top. An interest/power-based approach sees the problem as fundamentally political—concerning who gets what—as well as technical.

The question for most parties involved in framing institutions is not only how to produce democracy, but how to protect or expand one's power and wealth. Therefore, a discussion of what would be the technically "best" or even adequate institutional design is irrelevant if this design is not in the interest of powerful actors. Thus, an important aspect of the Orange Revolution is the fact that a wide range of elites coalesced around the amendment of the constitution to weaken the powers of the presidency. Had Yushchenko won an overwhelming victory, it would have been much harder to persuade him to accept these changes.

The second major competing explanation emerges from the literature on Ukraine. Many students of Ukrainian politics and society have argued that the fundamental problem obstructing the construction of democracy in Ukraine is that of societal divisions. Some refer to regional, ethnic, and linguistic cleavages, while others focus on the weakness of Ukrainian national identity.17 As with the institutional design argument, this one is not wrong, but rather is incomplete. The following chapters will offer evidence to show how divisions, especially between left and right, make it much easier for an authoritarian centrist to take power and maintain it. The crucial question is the extent to which these differences are bridgeable. Here the institutional design school has an important point to make: given different institutional design, leftists and rightists would find the incentives for collaboration much higher.

Moreover, the key problem in Ukraine under Kuchma was not that left and right could not ally, but that neither could ally with the center. This is harder to understand than the absence of a left-right coalition. A left-center or right-center coalition would form a substantial majority in parliament and could make that branch much more assertive. Again, we must ask why the institutions are not designed differently, and again, the answer concerns the interests of the prevailing elite and their ability to win key battles. In Chapters Seven and Eight we will see that the tendency of parties across the spectrum to fragment is not inevitably caused by societal fragmentation. Instead, it will be shown that particular institutional arrangements, some of which are unique to Ukraine, and many of which were promoted by Kuchma, considerably lower the incentives for party cohesion. The 2006 parliamentary elections provide evidence that different electoral laws would have significantly different effects on the party system.

In sum, the argument presented here acknowledges the utility of societal and formal institutional approaches, and builds on these approaches. However, I argue that both arguments are incomplete. Societal fragmentation and shortcomings in institutional design could be much more easily dealt with in the absence of an underlying imbalance in power. That imbalance gives an ambitious individual or faction the ability to pursue nearly unlimited authority, and to use institutional and societal weaknesses to build that power.

Ukraine in the Post-Soviet Region

While it is obvious that the answers to these questions are crucial for the future of Ukraine, the relevance of this study goes far beyond Ukraine. One of the most striking aspects of post-Soviet governments is the extent to which they converged in their politics after adopting widely different systems in 1991.18 After the Soviet Union collapsed, the post-Soviet states created a variety of institutional designs for the building of democracies, and they started with varying degrees of democracy. By 2003, except for the Baltic states, all had converged into a relatively uniform set of political arrangements, characterized by extremely powerful presidencies, weak political parties, manipulated elections, constrained media, and what might be called "machine politics" on a massive scale.

A post-Soviet "model" of "hyperpresidential" democracy has emerged, characterized by the use of democratic forms and practices to attain fundamentally undemocratic politics. There has been, not surprisingly, a substantial number of studies examining the Russian case by itself. But without understanding other cases as well as we understand the Russian one, we will have no basis for comparison, and no ability to ascertain which phenomena are idiosyncratic aspects of a particular society, and which are general trends across states.

Equally striking is the departure of three states, Georgia, Ukraine, and Kyrgyzstan, from the norm in 2003-4. By understanding why Ukraine, which moved as far toward genuine liberal democracy as any of these states, was drawn into this model of hyperpresidentialism, and then rejected it, we will gain an insight into the nature of all the political regimes in the region, and a better understanding of the forces that lead to this sort of political system. We will also better understand the vulnerabilities of this model.

This kind of "electoral authoritarianism," in which "free but unfair" elections are used not to check the government, but rather to increase its power and legitimacy, seems to be growing even beyond the Soviet Union. Many of the new democracies of the "third wave" of democratization have followed this path. Rather than denying the virtues of democracy or extolling the necessity of authoritarianism, as have past autocracies, these polities have adopted democratic ideologies and institutions, but still manage to avoid real political competition. They are systems in which power tends to concentrate rather than disperse.

Ukraine has much in common not only with Putin's Russia and Nazarbayev's Kazakhstan, but also with Fujimori's Peru, Chavez's Venezuela, and Estrada's Philippines. As several of these examples indicate, these governments tend to be highly stable up to a point—and then to collapse amid chaos. When all legitimate or orderly means of transition are short-circuited, unplanned and hence unstable transition is the only variant remaining. For these reasons, an understanding of Ukrainian politics is an important route to understanding a much broader category of important cases—the hyperpresidential failures of the "third wave" of democratization.

Implications for the Theory of Democratization

Equally significant are the implications of the Ukrainian case for the theory of democratization. An enormous amount of research has been conducted on the prerequisites, the processes, and the institutions required for successful democratization. An anatomy of a country that has had two reversals of trajectory should help us sort out the strengths of these various explanations. The factors that led Ukraine to be ripe for democratization, even under authoritarian rule, need to be understood. Of particular importance in Ukraine and comparable cases are arguments about institutions.

Much of the recent literature on democracy, but also some of the oldest, has focused on "institutional design." We have already outlined the argument that an institutionalist approach provides an incomplete understanding of politics in Ukraine and similar countries. We do not conclude from this that rational choice approaches are not useful. Instead, we hope to show how a better understanding of power politics can add to the literature on democratization.

The Plan of the Book

This introduction has sketched out the main arguments of the book and the theoretical approaches that will be used to examine them. The next two chapters develop these ideas in much more detail. Chapter Two will examine the literature on institutions and democratization. This literature is well established in the field of comparative politics and has been applied across a variety of postcommunist states. The goal of analyzing this literature will be to put Ukraine's problems into broader context.

This literature review will be concerned with two questions in particular. First, what relationship between the parliament and the executive is most conducive to building stable democracy? Essentially, this question has been boiled down to the question of whether presidential systems (those with a separate, directly elected head of government) are more conducive to democratization than parliamentary systems (those in which the leader of the parliament is also head of government), or whether some hybrid is preferable to both. Second, there is considerable research, and a greater degree of consensus, on what sort of electoral system is most likely to yield a stable governing majority. This literature sheds a good deal of light on why Ukraine's parliament has not consolidated, and why there are no easy solutions.

Chapter Three will develop the theoretical argument. It links together the four themes that were highlighted above to help us understand why power in Ukraine could become so concentrated and what might prevent such concentration in the future. The chapter will elaborate the links between social cleavages, institutional design, power politics, and the Soviet legacy in producing a system that was vulnerable to authoritarianism. A different set of arrangements—some of which were adopted in 2004—would likely lead to a more balanced system.

Chapter Four begins the empirical analysis with an overview of the main institutional developments in Ukraine since 1991. It is a rather selective political history of the independence period, highlighting events that will be significant in subsequent chapters (such as the adoption of the constitution) and neglecting other aspects of Ukrainian politics (such as the dispute over the status of Crimea) that are less relevant to this book. For those unfamiliar with politics in Ukraine, this chapter will help to make the chapters that follow it intelligible. It will describe what the succeeding chapters seek to explain: Ukraine's move to semiauthoritarianism.

Chapter Five will examine the argument that democratization in Ukraine is severely hampered by the lack of societal cohesion. This argument implies that democracy is impossible in Ukraine Until there is a fundamental narrowing of sdcietal cleavages and the formation of a coherent "Ukrainian nation" that includes the vast majority of the country's citizens. There can be no doubt that Ukraine's societal cleavages have important effects on the development of democracy in the country, but this chapter will show that the effect on the parliament is much more limited than many believe. Unlike some other authors, I do not focus on general arguments about the need for a unified "Ukrainian idea." Rather I look to see what verifiable connections can be established between societal divisions and political outcomes. We find persuasive evidence that regional/linguistic/ethnic cleavages did not obstruct alliances in the parliament. Instead, traditional left-right cleavages dominate. As long as the center was dominated by Kuchma, no democratic majority coalition could emerge. Such a coalition became possible following the Orange Revolution.

Chapter Six begins our analysis of Ukraine's formal institutional framework, focusing on the constitution. It applies to Ukraine broader findings in the field of comparative politics on the merits of presidential versus parliamentary systems of government. The most important question is how the 1996 constitution, by creating a presidential-parliamentary hybrid that strongly favored the president, contributed to Kuchma's ability to obtain authoritarian control. This chapter will also consider the relationship between the form of government and the party system, where Ukraine faces some particularly difficult dilemmas. There is some reason to believe that the shift of power toward the parliament will replace the problems of Kuchma's reign with a new, but equally dangerous set. The new institutions may be prone to stalemate, which is hazardous in new democracies.

Chapter Seven continues the discussion of institutional arrangements with a discussion of the electoral law, the fragmentation of parliament, and the weakness of political parties. There is a considerable body of literature on the effects of different sorts of electoral laws, and considerable consensus within that literature. The main goal of designing election laws is to provide for the maximum degree of representation in society that still allows for a majority coalition to develop in order to pass legislation. As many theorists have shown, these goals are to some extent contradictory. In the 1998 and 2002 parliamentary elections, Ukraine used a hybrid electoral law that was aimed at providing the benefits of both proportional and majoritarian laws. In practice, this law yielded the negative aspects of both laws rather than the positive ones. This is readily explainable. In 2004, looking forward to the 2006 elections, a fully proportional law was passed. This chapter will argue that the shift to a fully proportional system, while not without its disadvantages, probably suits Ukraine best, especially as power is shifted toward the parliament.

One problem with the literature on institutional design is that it treats the electoral law as the sole institutional influence on the structure of the party system and on the ability to form a functioning coalition in parliament. Therefore, Chapter Eight considers another level that will prove to be equally important: the rules of procedure in the parliament. Most theorists find that the electoral laws do not create incentives for parties to fragment; rather, they vary in their provision of disinpentives to fragmentation. Thg same type of analysis can be applied to parliamentary rules of procedure, particularly the rules for recognizing distinct "factions" and the powers given to those factions. In Ukraine, parliamentary factions have been able to split into very small groups without losing their official status or perquisites. Because party leaders have had little ability to sanction defectors, party cohesion is further undermined. Moreover, some rules have actually provided a positive incentive to divide parties. In sum, then, there are identifiable changes in the parliamentary rules of procedure that would increase party cohesion, reduce the number of parties, and quite likely increase the parliament's ability to pass legislation. Some of these changes were adopted in 2004 and went into effect in 2006, though their effects are as yet difficult to assess.

By the end of Chapter Eight, we will have examined in considerable detail both the societal and institutional sources of Ukraine's slide toward authoritarianism, and we will have seen that many important questions remain unanswered. Chief among these is the inconsistent strength of institutions and rules. Chapter Nine shows how the power of the executive branch allows it to skew seemingly impartial rules in its favor. The executive branch has been able to intervene with resources that are not envisioned in the constitution or electoral law, and hence are characterized in this chapter as "informal power." These include the control of tax and law enforcement, as well as other regulatory duties assigned to the executive branch, which when applied selectively can provide incredibly powerful levers (positive and negative) over the behavior of other actors. They also include the power of patronage, which is especially powerful in a state with a unified system of government, little or no civil service protection, and a long history of the authorities telling people how to vote. This array of levers can be applied to common voters, judges, and legislators. In a system that is on paper only moderately tilted in the president's favor, these extralegal powers tipped the balance overwhelmingly in the president's favor.

Looking forward, reducing these de facto powers will be essential if liberal democracy in Ukraine is to be consolidated. In discussing constitutional reform in 2004, supporters of Yushchenko sought to maintain the level of presidential power that Kuchma enjoyed. While it was tempting to give Yushchenko, "the good guy," as much power as Kuchma, "the bad guy," such a practice would raise troubling questions for the future. Changing the constitution has reduced the de jure power of the president, but the effect on the president's de facto powers remains unclear. Moreover, it seems possible that the prime minister may now have enough power to pursue these tactics. Perhaps dividing the resources used for power politics between president and prime minister will reduce the use of these tactics, assuring that a tainted preelection process as occurred in 1999 and 2004 will not be repeated.

In Chapter Ten, we broaden the focus to consider an array of other countries that have developed forms of electoral politics that in their essentials are quite similar to those of Ukraine. In fact, the use of democratic means to achieve nondemocratic ends is a widespread practice among the states of the "third wave" of democratization. In the former Soviet Union, we see that almost all of the states outside the Baltic region have developed this form of rule, despite having adopted an array of institutional arrangements after 1991. This convergence indicates that there are powerful factors promoting this practice. Examinations of Russia, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan show how three states that at various times were considered strong candidates for democratization have gone the same route as Ukraine. Kyrgyzstan, like Ukraine, has now begun to move tentatively back toward liberal democracy. Their presidents have used many of the exact same techniques that Kuchma used in Ukraine. Ukraine's form of politics is not unique to Ukraine.

Demonstrating that the patterns we see in Ukraine exist elsewhere is important both for our understanding of Ukrainian politics and for the development of democratization theory more broadly. For Ukrainian politics, this finding counters the notion that Ukraine's problems are unique, and are the result of uniquely Ukrainian conditions. Such arguments, which imply that lessons from other countries cannot be applied to Ukraine, deprive us of the perspective that can lead to both a better understanding of Ukraine, and, perhaps, possible ways to improve the quality of democracy there. Finding a pattern across countries is also important for the democratization literature because it shows that instances where democratic means are used to produce undemocratic outcomes are not isolated or unique.

This potential is inherent in every democracy. When practical political power, for whatever reason, becomes overconcentrated in the hands of one individual or group, formal institutional checks on the abuse of power lose their potency. Checking powerful actors requires both de jure and de facto power. This basic point was emphasized by Madison in his discussion of the U.S. Constitution, but the lesson has seemingly been forgotten by modern democratization theorists, who have tended to let formal rules substitute for a genuine balance of power.

Finally, the conclusion (Chapter Eleven) will consider both the origins of "electoral authoritarianism" and the sources and implications of the Orange Revolution. In addition to summarizing the main assertions of the book, the conclusion will present a series of questions that are raised in this book but not fully answered by it. Foremost among these is the implication of the changes that occurred in 2004. Is the replacement of Kuchma by Yushchenko by itself sufficient to promote the consolidation of liberal democracy? Does the resurgence of Viktor Yanukovych and the Party of Regions mean that democracy is working, or that it is doomed? What effects can key institutional changes be expected to have? Has the emergence of Ukrainian "civil society" trumped the regional divisions that were also evident in the election? Clearly the Orange Revolution has vastly improved the chances for enduring liberal democracy in Ukraine. But it has not automatically created that outcome. The conclusion, therefore, evaluates the reforms adopted in 2004 and lays out an agenda for further reforms that are essential to consolidating democracy in Ukraine. Much remains to be done. Just as the hopes of 1994 were dashed by subsequent events, the full implications of 2004 remain to be determined.


1. See, for example, Fred Weir, "Ukraine's Orange Revolution Undone," Christian Science Monitor, August 4, 2006, p. 6; Anatol Lieven, "Failure of the Orange Revolution is a Historic Opportunity," Financial Times, July 25, 2006, p. 17.

2. Samuel P. Huntington, The Third Wave: Democratization in the Late Twentieth Century (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1991), pp. 266-67. In fact, there is some question whether Ukraine could be considered to have passed this test in 1998. It did have two successful parliamentary elections. But Huntington's test requires that the winning party in the democracy's "founding election" be defeated, and that then the new winner be subsequently defeated. By that test, Ukraine might be viewed as not having the second turnover until 2004.

3. Paul Kubicek, "Delegative Democracy in Russia and Ukraine," Communist and Post-Communist Studies 27, no. 4 (July 1994): 423-42.

4. Steven Levitsky and Lucan A. Way, "Competitive Authoritarianism: Elections without Democracy," Journal of Democracy 13, no. 2 (April 2002): 51-64.

5. See Carlos Pascual, "Don't Give Up on Ukraine," International Herald Tribune, August 3, 2006. Pascual is a former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine.

6. Adam Przeworski, Democracy and the Market: Political and Economic Reforms in Eastern Europe and Latin America (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), 10.

7. Robert A. Dahl, Democracy and Its Critics (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1989).

8. Samuel Huntington, The Third Wave: Democratization in the Late Twentieth Century (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1991), quoted in Fareed Zakaria, "The Rise of Illiberal Democracy," Foreign Affairs 76 (1997): 24.

9. Guillermo O'Donnell, "Delegative Democracy," Journal of Democracy 5, no. 1 (1994): 58.

10. By "liberal democracy," we mean one that is characterized not only by the rule of the people but also by the rule of law, and where competition for power is such that various political forces find clear and consistent constraint on their pursuit of power. This refers not only to the state itself, which in a liberal democracy has clear limits (both de jure and de facto) on its power, but also to partisan forces within the state. Whether such a "liberal democracy" can be produced solely by institutional design, or whether it depends as well on certain characteristics in the society (such as a certain degree of consensus on basic issues) is an issue that will be discussed further below.

11. See Taras Kuzio and Paul D'Anieri, eds., Dilemmas of State-Led Nation Building in Ukraine (Westport, CT: Praeger, 2002).

12. See William Riker, "Implications from the Disequilibrium of Majority Rule for the Study of Institutions," American Political Science Review 74, no. 2 (June 1980): 475; George Tsebelis, Nested Games: Rational Choice in Comparative Politics (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990); and Gary W. Cox, Making Votes Count: Strategic Coordination in the World's Electoral Systems (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1997), 17. Similarly, Cox focuses on the "endogeneity of electoral structure" (the notion that "if electoral laws do indeed affect the ability of political parties to survive... then presumably parties will seek to manipulate those laws to their own advantage") (Cox, Making Votes Count, 17).

13. Tsebelis, Nested Games, 11.

14. Riker, "Implications," 444-45.

15. Przeworski, Democracy and the Market, 87.

16. Bohdan Harasymiw has linked this argument to Ukraine, citing Tatu Vanhanen, The Process of Democratization: A Comparative Study of 147 States, 1980-88 (New York: Crane Russak, 1990). See Bohdan Harasymiw, Post-Soviet Ukraine (Edmonton: Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies, 2002), 12.

17. See Taras Kuzio, Ukraine: State and Nation Building (London: Routledge, 1998); Pal Kolsto, Political Construction Sites: Nation-Building and the Post-Soviet States (Boulder, CO: Westview, 2000); Roman Szporluk, "Nation-Building in Ukraine: Problems and Prospects," in The Successor States to the USSR, ed. J. W. Blaney (Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly, 1995); Andrew Wilson, Ukrainian Nationalism in the 1990s: A Minority Faith (New York: Cambridge, 1997); Sharon L. Wolchik and Volodymyr Zviglyanich, eds., Ukraine: The Search for a National Identity (Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2000); Kataryna Wolczuk, "History, Europe and the 'National Idea: "The Official Narrative of National Identity in Ukraine," Nationalities Papers 28, no. 4 (December 2000): 671-94; and William Zimmerman, "Is Ukraine a Political Community?" Communist and Post-Communist Studies 31, no. 1 (March 1998): 43-56.

18. This phenomenon was perhaps first noted and analyzed by Philip G. Roeder, "Varieties of Post-Soviet Authoritarian Regimes," Post-Soviet Affairs 10 (1994): 61-101.