POLITICS OF UKRAINEBy: Benedict (Viktor) Gombocz
Ukraine’s political system:Background The politics of Ukraine function in a structure of a presidential representative democratic republic and of a multi-party structure. The Cabinet exercises executive power. The parliament (Verkhovna Rada, Верховна Рада України – literally Supreme Council of Ukraine) exercises legislative power. Ukraine’s political system has been depicted by academics as “weak, fractured, highly personal and ideologically vacuous while the judiciary and media fail to hold politicians to account” (Dr. Taras Kuzio in 2009). Ukrainian politics has been classified as “over-centralised”, seen as a fateful inheritance of both the Soviet structure and caused by a panic of separatism.
Ukraine’s political system: Constitution ofUkraine In the aftermath of its independence from the Soviet Union, in 1991, Ukraine named a parliamentary commission to draft a new constitution, approved a multi-party system, and approved legislative pledges of civil and political rights for its national minorities. On 28 June 1996, a new, democratic constitution, which authorized a pluralistic political structure with protection of basic human rights and freedoms and a presidential form of government, was approved. In December 2004, the Constitution was revised to relieve the ruling of the 2004 presidential election catastrophe. Through the Consociationalist accord, the form of government was shifted to a semi-presidentialism in which Ukraine’s President had to share power with the PM; the constitutional modifications went into effect between January and May 2006. In October 2010, the Constitutional Court of Ukraine repealed the 2004 modifications, on the grounds that they were unconstitutional.
Ukraine’s political system: FundamentalFreedoms Freedom of religion is promised by law, though religious groups must register with local law enforcement and with the central government. Minority rights are respected in line with a 1991 law that entitles them the right to schools and cultural facilities and the use of national languages in carrying out personal business. While Ukrainian is, according to the current Constitution of Ukraine, the only official state language, Russian is prevalent in official business in Crimea and some parts of the east of Ukraine, areas with significant ethnic Russian minorities. Despite freedom of speech and press being pledged under law, authorities occasionally intervene with the news media by different kinds of pressure; the government’s failure to perform a careful, realistic, and apparent investigation into the 2000 vanishing of independent journalist Georgiy Gongadze has had a harmful consequence on Ukraine’s global image. More than half of Ukrainians surveyed by the Razumkov Center in early October 2010 (56.6%) indicated they believed political censorship exists in Ukraine. Official labor unions have been categorized under the Federation of Labor Unions; numerous independent unions, which were created in 1992, not least of which is the Independent Union of Miners of Ukraine, have established the Consultative Council of Free Labor Unions. The right to strike is legally pledged, but strikes that are based exclusively on political wishes are forbidden.
Ukraine’s political system: Religions (generalscope) Christians – 33.6% Eastern Orthodox – 26.8% Roman Catholic – 5.9% Protestant – 0.9% Jewish – 0.1% Other – 3.8% No affiliation/not aware – 62.5%
Ukraine’s political system: Executive BranchMain office holders President and Prime Minister President: Viktor Yanukovych The President is elected through popular vote for a term of five years. Party: Party of Regions The President appoints or names the Since: 25 February 2010 PM, who must be confirmed by parliament. Prime Minister: Mykola Azarov The PM and cabinet are de jure nominated or named by the Parliament with Party: Party of Regions compliance of the President and Since: 11 March 2010 PM, respectively (Pursuant to Article 114 of the Constitution of Ukraine). A big portion of the current major officials in the executive branch and majority parliament coalition are from the east of Ukraine, most prominently from Donetsk Oblast.
Ukraine’s political system: Government Capital (and largest city): Kyiv Official languages: Ukrainian Demonym: Ukrainian Government: Unitary semi- presidential republic President: Viktor Yanukovych Prime Minister: Mykola Azarov Speaker of Parliament: Volodymyr Rybak Legislature: Verkhovna Rada
Ukraine’s political system: Legislative Branch The Verkhovna Rada (Ukraine’s parliament) is made up of 450 members, elected to a term of four years (five years from 2006 until 2012 with the 2004 modifications). Before 2006, half of those members were elected through proportional representation; the other half was elected through single-seat constituencies. After the March 2006 parliamentary election, all 450 affiliates of the Verkhovna Rada were elected through party-list proportional representation. The Verkhovna Rada instigates legislation and approves worldwide agreements and the budget. In Ukraine, the confidence in legislative powers as a whole is very small.
Ukraine’s political system: Parliamentaryparties Party of Regions All-Ukrainian Union “Fatherland” Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reform All-Ukrainian Union "Svoboda" Communist Party of Ukraine Non-affiliated
Ukraine’s political system: Judicial Branch Constitutional jurisdiction: The Constitutional Court of Ukraine General jurisdiction: The Supreme Court of Ukraine; High specialized courts: the High Arbitration of Ukraine (Ukrainian: Вищий господарський суд України), the High Administrative Court of Ukraine; Local courts of appeal, military courts of appeal, specialized courts of appeal; Regional district courts, military garrison courts Laws, acts of the Parliament and the Cabinet, presidential statutes, and acts of the Crimean parliament (Autonomous Republic of Crimea) may be abolished by the Constitutional Court of Ukraine, if they have violated the Constitution of Ukraine; other normative acts will be determined by judicial review. In the structure of courts of general authority, the Supreme Court of Ukraine is the chief body. The Constitution of Ukraine permits trials by jury, though this has yet to be applied in practice. Additionally, some courts permit legislation as still in project, as the case is, for example, the Court of Appeals of Ukraine; the judicial branch’s change is presently making progress. Also significant is the Office of the Prosecutor General of Ukraine, given with the broad freedoms of control and management.
Ukraine’s political system: Local Government Local government is officially promised; local councils and city mayors are elected by popular vote, exercising control of local budgets. Practically, the extent of local autonomy is restricted; a large-range change of the local government (calling for new constitutional amendments) is periodically demanded since 2000, most notably by the Socialist Party of Ukraine and Oleksandr Moroz.
Ukraine’s political system: Autonomous Republic ofCrimea In 1992, numerous pro-Russian political groups in Crimea supported its secession and annexation to Russia. During the Soviet era, Crimea was ceded from Russia to Ukraine, in 1954, by First Secretary Nikita Khrushchev to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the Treaty of Pereyaslav. In July 1992, the Crimean and Ukrainian parliaments decided that Crimea remain under Ukrainian control while maintaining important cultural and economic self- governing, which created the Autonomous Republic of Crimea.
Ukraine’s political system: International organizationparticipation BSEC, CE, CEI, CIS (participating), EAPC, EBRD, ECE, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICRM, IFC, IFR CS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, Inmarsat, Intelsat (nonsignatory user), Interpol, IOC, IOM (observer), ISO, NAM (observer), NSG, OAS (observer), OPCW, OSCE, PCA, PFP, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNID O, UNMIBH, UNMOP, UNMOT, UPU, WCO, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WM O, WToO, WTrO, Zangger Committee.
Viktor Yanukovych Born 9 July 1950 in Yenakiieve. Current President of Ukraine since 25 February 2010. Served as the Governor of Donetsk Oblast from 1997-2002; was subsequently PM of Ukraine from 21 November 2002-31 December 2004 under President Leonid Kuchma, and was an unsuccessful nominee in the 2004 presidential election, in which he lost to Viktor Yushchenko. Remained the leader of his party, the Party of Regions, after that defeat; served as PM for a second time from 4 August 2006-18 December 2007 under President Yushchenko. On 3 March 2010, following his ascension to the presidency, he gave leadership of the Party of Regions to Mykola Azarov. Secured most votes in the first round of the January 2010 presidential election; his challenger was then PM Yulia Tymoshenko in the runoff round of that election. Won the runoff round of the election with 48.95% of the vote against Tymoshenko’s 45.47%.
Mykola Azarov Born 17 December 1947 in Kaluga. Current PM of Ukraine since 11 March 2010. Was the first Vice Prime Minister and Finance Minister from 2002-2005 and again from 2006-2007. Also served ex officio as an acting PM in the first Yanukovych Government, when Viktor Yanukovych initially ran for president and later upon his government’s resignation. Took Yanukovcyh’s place as leader of the Party of Regions after the former’s victory in the 2010 presidential election; was named a fully fledged PM in March 2010.
Volodymyr Rybak Born 3 October 1946 in Stalino (now Donetsk). Current Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada since 13 December 2012, having been elected the same day following the October 2012 parliamentary election; is also the original leader of the forerunner of the Party of Regions, the Party of Regional Revival of Ukraine. Is a Merited Builder of Ukraine (1995). Graduated from the Department of Economy at the Donetsk State University in 1973, where he acquired a doctor of economic sciences. Was the chairman of the city council, executive committee and mayor of Donetsk from 1993-2002. Served as co-organizer and first leader of the Party of Regions between 1997-2001. Serves as an affiliate of the Verkhovna Rada since the 2002 parliamentary election. Was First Vice Premier of Ukraine and Construction, Architecture and Housing and Utility minister (4 August 2006-21 March 2007) and Vice Premier of Ukraine (21 March 2007-18 December 2007) in the Second Yanukovych Government.
Party of Regions Russophone party founded on 26 October 1997 right before the parliamentary election the following year under the name Party of Regional Revival of Ukraine, under the leadership of Volodymyr Rybak. Was later changed in 2001 when it merged with several other parties. According to the leadership of the party, in 2002, the number of affiliates skyrocketed from 30,000 to 500,000 from its founding until late 2001. Claims that it ideologically protects and endorses the rights of the ethnic Russian minority and speakers of the Russian language in Ukraine. Initially backed President Leonid Kuchma, joining the pro-government For United Ukraine coalition during the 30 March 2002 parliamentary election. Its current chairman is current PM Mykola Azarov. Performs quite well in areas that are chiefly parts of the historic region of the New Russia. Both its electoral and financial headquarters are located mostly in east and southeast Ukraine; it enjoys wide popularity here. Is mostly backed by people over the age of 45.
Batkivshchyna (All-Ukrainian Union“Fatherland”) Founded 9 July 1999; is led by ex-PM Yulia Tymoshenko. As the center party of the ex-Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc, its parliamentary representation in the Verkhovna Rada dates back to the 2002 parliamentary election. Independently became a key force in Ukrainian politics after involvement of blocs of political parties in parliamentary elections was outlawed in November 2011. Also added the name “United Opposition” to its name and aligned with a number of other parties under its sign during the 2012 parliamentary election; per December 2012, these parties are thinking about creating a single party. In October 2011, party leader Yulia Tymoshenko was sentenced to seven years in jail after her conviction on abuse of power charges; currently, she is being held in Kharkiv.