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Analysing The Political System In Ukraine Politics Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Politics
Wordcount: 4131 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Before mentioning about the presidents and presidential elections, the political system of the Ukraine is important to analyze its political transition. With its independence, Ukraine had some difficult task which would be solved in short time. A new political system had to be built. New system of national security and defense had to be created. With its Constitution, the general foundations of the political system are defined. Ukraine is an independent, sovereign, democratic and social and jural state in accordance with its organic law.

The state power is divided into legislative, executive and judicial branches. According to Constitution, the main responsibility of the state is to establish and promote human rights and freedoms. Ukraine is a unitary state, in which its territory is integral and inviolable. The state has a single citizenship. (http://www.ukraine-arabia.ae/ukraine/politics/president/)

As we look into the President of the Ukraine, this post is designated to be Head of State and a guarantor of national sovereignty, territorial integrity and adherence to the Constitution. President is elected by the citizens of the state on the basis of direct universal suffrage. The term of presidential office is five years. In order to be elected as President there are obligations. One of them is living in Ukraine for ten years before the elections, the other is being citizens.(http://www.ukraine-arabia.ae/ukraine/politics/president/)

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The only legislative body of Ukraine is the Parliament which is called the Verkhovna Rada. Citizens elect the deputies of Ukraine via direct universal suffrage through secret vote. The parliamentary election system is mixed with majority and proportional. 450 deputies are elected 225 of them are elected at single-mandate constituencies in terms of relative majority, and another 225 are elected proportionally at multi-mandate national constituency from the list of candidates who comes from the political parties.

Constitution and laws of Ukraine establish the powers of the people’s deputies. They can unite themselves into factions with more than 25 members. These deputy groups are formed on a party and non-party basis.

Then, the Cabinet of Ministers which is the supreme executive authority of Ukraine comes. Presidential orders, laws of Ukraine and the Constitution are the legal basis for its actions. The Government is responsible to the President and it is controlled by the Verkhovna Rada. This dependency leads to presidential appointment of a Prime minister with parliamentary consent. Prime Minister’s authorities may be suspended and discharged by the President. Furthermore, Members of Cabinet of Ministers are discharged and appointed by President.

When we look at the judicial authority system, there are Constitutional Court and Courts of General Jurisdiction. Furthermore, the supreme authority in judiciary is Supreme Court of Ukraine. The system of courts of general jurisdiction is based on the principles of territorial and special jurisdiction. The Constitutional Court of Ukraine is a separate entity and is independent from the Courts of General Jurisdiction. The activities of the Constitutional Court of Ukraine promote constitutional control in all spheres, stabilization and strengthening of constitutional order, the establishment of principle of primacy of law and the supreme legal force of the Constitution, and the promotion of constitutional rights and freedoms of citizens.

Ukrainians had to take a program of state and nation building simultaneously. In the process of state building, Ukrainian policy was shaped with the desire to guarantee its independence. It can be said that Ukrainian independence was accompanied with the qualifications of quasi-state and quasi-nation as a part of the Soviet heritage. Policy of Ukraine since 1991- 1992 until the 2004- 2005 was based on the process of state and nation building. Because of locked within the Soviet borders, Ukraine has isolated from the other world.

All the interactions with the entire world were conducted by Moscow, that is the reason why Ukrainian authorities had no experience in cooperation with other states and independent administration of the state.


E.2.Presidents of Ukraine

While examining the political transition of the Ukraine, it is also necessary to deal with the presidents and elections. After the independence from Soviet in 1991, in Ukraine there held 5 presidential elections in 1991, 1994, 1999 and 2004 and 2010, five parliamentary elections in 1994, 1998, 2002, 2006 and 2007. The Ukrainian Constitution which was adopted in 1996 and was amended in 2004, stipulates a de-facto dual executive that is dependent on both the president and the parliamentary majority. (Oleksandr Sushko and Olena Prystayko)

There held the first presidential election on 1st December 1991. Leonid Kravchuk won the elections with the 61,59 percent of the votes in the first round and became the state President. He showed a degree of political continuity from the Soviet period. He failed in understanding the need for economic reform. Consequently, because of not implementing the reforms in which power was divided between the communists and the opposition, the result became a hybrid regime. (Karpyk, Tamila,8)

As it was stated before, the first years of independence was dealing with nation building and political survival. The appearance and activities of Rukh (the People’s Movement of Ukraine) which is a new Democratic Party was important for preservation of national identity among the masses. Vyacheslav Chornovil was the leader of the Democratic Party and he had significant characteristics on the spirit of nationalism in Ukraine. In these circumstances, changing into a nation-builder and being a mediator between the nationalist West and the Russified Eastern part of the country was not difficult for the first President Leonid Kravchuk who was former Second Secretary of the Communist Party of Ukraine. However, it was not an easy task. Before his office term ended, he had to call an early election because of the strike of the coal miners on 7th July 1993.


With the decision of referendum, the early election was held on 26th June1994. Leonid Kravchuk and Leonid Kuchma were among the candidates of this election. In the first round, none of the candidates gained over 50 percent. Leonid Kravchuk got 38,36 percent and Leonid Kuchma got 31,17 percent of the votes. In the second round which was held on 10th July 1994, while the current head of the state received the 45,06, Leonid Kuchma was elected as Ukranian second Head of State with the 52,15 percent. (http://www.turksam.org/tr/a1898.html)

It was surprise for Leonid Kravchuk to lose to Leonid Kuchma in the early elections. Leonid Kuchma was the former manager of Ukraine’s biggest armaments factory. On coming to power, Kuchma devolved greater power to the regions to decide linguistic and national questions. In his election campaign, anti-nationalist sentiment was aired by the Kuchma. (Kuzio, 214) However, this more liberal policy has squarely contradicted his desire for national consolidation and thwarted attempts to make policy implementation by the center in the periphery more efficient and effective. His first year in power led to financial stabilization. However, he could not continue the reform process and that led to small group in power becoming richer and the majority of the people had to find another means for survival. In 1999, during the Office term of Kuchma, The Committee to Protect Journalists stated Ukraine for its restrictions over independent media. The image of Ukraine was influenced in negative way because of disappearance of opposition journalist. (Karpyk, Tamila,20) Kuchma has intimate relations with Putin. His administration can be seen as soft authoritarianism.

Corruption, suppression of the media and weakening of the civil society were activities during the period of Leonid Kuchma. He aspired to construct a system of managed democracy which is formal democratic practices but informal control of all political institutions similar to Putin’s model of government in Russia but he never had such kind of success. Ukraine’s three largest oligarchic group did back Kuchma and wielded their media and financial resources. (McFaul,50-51) However, Kuchma did not control the rents generated from oil and gas sales that could have been used to purchase the loyalty of societal challengers. Kuchma’s regime did not control or own major segments of the Ukrainian economy.

The third election was held on 31st October 1999, Leonid Kuchma also took part in this election. There were 13 candidates but none of them got the majority of the votes. Ukrainian Communist Party leader Petro Simonenko and Leonid Kuchma competed in the second round. The former President was re-elected for a second term by taking 56,25 percent of the votes. In 2000, Viktor Yuschenko became Prime Minister of Kuchma. In economic domain, the citizens became hopeful with this change. Especially encouraging privatization, comprehensive reform programs and attempts for prevention of corruption enabled Yuschenko to have support from Ukrainians. As a consequence, he automatically became opponent to Kuchma and he was dismissed from his post. In 2000, a former socialist and oligarch leader released a video record which contains Leonid Kuchma’s illegal orders. With this event, a scandal broke out and it brought a different approach to Ukrainian politics. In the parliamentary elections, Yuschenko’s bloc got 112 chairs. However Kuchma’s party got 104 chairs and it became sign for the upcoming elections for President. (Sarıkaya, p.3) Kuchma has tried to squelch opposition voices. However, his jailing of former Energy Minister Yuliya Tymoshenko, his dismissal of Prime Minister Yuschenko and his apparent collusion in the murder of journalist Georgy Gongadze further weakened the state and created more opposition. (McFaul, p.54)

As a final impression on Kuchma’s term, he did not aspire to construct full blown autocracy. He was prepared to transgress democratic rules to prevent the opposition from coming to power and he also wanted to maintain the appearance of democracy.

The fourth Presidential elections were really struggling and it led to the Orange Revolution which will be explained in the following section. The election held on 31st October 2004 had 26 candidates. Two of the candidates were Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych backed by Russia and former Prime Minister and opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko supported by the West. The first round was really competitive and in the second round the percentage of the votes of Yanukovych and Yushchenko were close to each other. With the announcement of the international electoral watchdogs about defraud on the elections resulted in the mass demonstrations of the population. Ukrainian High Court explained that the results were not valid. As the new election was held, Yushchenko instead of Yanukovych got the Presidency with the help of the Orange Revolution. Although Yanukovych did not win the election, it was seen that his and Russia’s political influence power in Ukraine was very strong. (http://www.turksam.org/tr/a1898.html)

When Yushchenko first came to power, Ukraine’s Orange government seemed like it could meet the popular demands for radical political reform and immediate integration into Europe. Yushchenko and his Prime Minister Tymoshenko showed their incompatibility while working. They criticized each other openly. The Ukrainian political system became more dysfunctional. (Motyl, Alexander, 4) There is also an important and positive improvement. During Yuschchenko’s term Ukraine was upgraded to FREE from Partly Free by Freedom House. He failed to understand the need to deal with Ukraine’s past or how to integrate Ukraine and follow through on pursuing criminal charges against the elites who had murdered journalists, abused their positions of power through massive corruption and theft of state property, and organized mass election fraud. (Kuzio, 217)

On the other hand, he actively favored his ethnic Ukrainian base by promoting the Ukrainian language, culture, and identity in schools, government, and the media. With these actions, he alienated many of the ethnic Russians and Russian speaking Ukrainians in the country’s east and south. (Motyl, Alexander, 3)

On 17 January 2010, 18 candidates competed in the elections. Current President Yushchenko was also one of the participants. (http://www.turksam.org/tr/a1898.html)

In February 2010, Viktor Yanukovych made a remarkable political comeback. It was surprising that Orange Revolution was conducted against Yanukovych’s Presidency and now the Ukrainians elected him voluntarily. The economic conditions of Ukraine could be explanation for this situation. In 2009, the country’s GDP fell by 15 percent. People were frustrated and they were willing to support anyone who could fix the economic conditions. And Tymoshenko was seen as guilty and Yanukovych became the winner.At the start of his presidency, Yanukovych laid out his foreign policy priorities: restoring Ukraine’s close ties with Russia, European integration and building relationships with strategic partners such as the United States. By playing to these priorities and, at the same time, pursuing their own interests in the region, Russia, the European Union, and the United States can help stabilize the Yanukovych presidency and Ukraine.(Motyl,Alexander, 2) Yanukovych claimed that he learned from his mistakes in the past. However, he had already done some mistakes. He redefined democracy as political order. He does not advocate Ukrainian heritage contrary to his opponent Yushchenko. He appointed Dmytro Tabachnyk for Ministery of Education and Science. He was not a good choice because he openly declares his anti-Ukrainian views. He also claims that ethnic Ukrainians in the west of Ukraine are too Westernized to be genuine Ukrainians. His assault on the Ukrainian identity resulted in demonstrations and protests which were directed at Yanukovych and his minister. (Motyl,Alexander, 4)

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As a result of Yanukovych’s centralized and anti-Ukrainian regime, Ukraine does not reach national consensus on the political and economic direction of country. He is not expected to be authoritarian because of not having strong coercive apparatus as Putin but his regime is seen as return to Kuchmism. There created strong opposition to him and Ukraine’s first President Kravchuk is among them. He criticized lawlessness, permissiveness, use of force and corruption which are done by the team of Yanukovych. It is believed that if he continues to act like this, he can provoke a second Orange Revolution. Lacking the ability, capacity, and will to change the system, Yanukovych will probably try to enhance his regime’s legitimacy. However, its Party of Region is not supported by population in Kiev and no reform is expected during his term because of gathering Kuchma’s incompetent ministers in his team. Furthermore, the lower natural gas price that Yanukovych negotiated with Russia will bring immediate benefits to the oligarchs. Lower gas prices will allow them to keep the costs of their products low and globally competitive without forcing them to modernize or become more efficient. Even if the people welcomes lower gas prices at first Yanukovych’s regime is expected to be more corrupt. (Kuzio, 214)

After evaluating Presidents of Ukraine, the citizens’ ideas on democracy are worthy to examine. According to survey which is conducted in 2010, the preference for democracy is highest in Western Ukraine, while apathy toward the type of governing system is highest in Eastern and Southern Ukraine. More Ukrainians do not view Ukraine as a democracy than those who do. Only 25 percent of Ukrainians believe that Ukraine is a democracy compared to 41 percent who do not believe it is a democracy

. E.3. The Orange Revolution

From over two decades, Ukraine has been facing with a most difficult transition from its authoritarian past. On the way to democratization, it has experienced economic collapse, over lasting constitution making period, border disputes with its neighbors, severe discontinuities and a revolution.(Bohdan Harasymiw, 2002)

The fall 2004 presidential election was one of the pivotal movements in the history of Ukraine. The current president Leonid Kuchma and Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych who was chosen successor of Kuchma deployed state resources, national media, and private funding from both Ukrainians and Russians to win against Viktor Yushchenko. When this effort was not enough, the government of Kuchma added votes in the second round for Yanukovych. As a response, Yushchenko called his supporters to come to Independence Square. The reason for this call is to protest this fraud in the election. Thousands of people came together in Kiev and stayed there until Supreme Court decided to cancel the second round results. (McFaul, 49)

As we evaluate the Orange Revolution, it is understood that domestic factors accounted for most of the drama of this event.but external factors played direct role in constraining some dimensions of autocratic power. It also enhanced some dimensions of the opposition’s power.

However, Ukrainian democracy did not consolidate after the Revolution. Even if the Ukrainian democracy go back towards autocracy over the long run, this dramatic event is still seen as a democratic breakthrough in this decade.(McFaul, 48)

With the Orange Revolution, it was seen that in Ukraine there is a struggle for between a semi-autocratic regime and a democratic opposition. Although there were improvements towards liberal democracy but not guaranteed. Institutional changes remain modest. 5 years after this movement, election of Yanukovych can be surprising and made the Orange Revolution waste of time. It has just postponed his Presidency.

F.3.Ukraine-Turkey Relations:

Turkey and Ukraine are neighbors on the Black Sea. When we look at the general situation between these two countries it can be said that it is good but not sufficient compared to their current potential. Especially in the issue of security in Black Sea, Ukraine has great importance for Turkey. Furthermore, its location on the energy lines, being one of the significant Black Sea countries, the historical ties with Crimea region and nearly 265000 Crimean Turks living in Crimea makes their relations substantial and sensitive. (http://www.mfa.gov.tr/turkiye-ukrayna-ekonomik-iliskileri.tr.mfa)

As it is all known Ukraine has importance on the international relations with its strategic position. Ukraine sees Turkey as a key country for exit for Middle East and Mediterranean Sea. Ukraine’s foreign policy in its South axis aims to improve relations with Turkey. For Turkey, Ukraine is a buffer zone in order to prevent Russians to reach Black Sea.

Turkey also attaches importance to Ukraine in terms of the stability of the region and strives to further develop its bilateral relations with Ukraine in every field especially economic and trade. (http://www.turksam.org/tr/a1512.html)

Turkey is one of the first countries which recognized the Ukrainian Independence. Because of the discontinuity of the political relations, economic and the trade relations moved ahead of them. The Protocol on the establishment of the diplomatic relations between Turkey and Ukraine was signed on February 3, 1992. The legal framework which regulates the relations and cooperation between these two countries is almost complete after the signing of several agreements and protocols in political, military, economic, cultural, educational and intelligence related fields. (http://www.mfa.gov.tr/turkiye-ukrayna-ekonomik-iliskileri.tr.mfa)

In 1994, Trade Economic Cooperation Agreement entered into force. There has been no serious political problem and there is an increase on the economic dynamic. There is an unbalanced situation of trade. Although Turkey imports more, its exports to Ukraine remains very low. 70 percent of Ukraine’s exports to Turkey is composed of iron, steel and the other mine products. There has been an increase of the Turkey’s exportations on coal, organic and inorganic chemical substances, wood, aluminum, paper, plaster, stone and cement from 2007. Turkey’s investment in Ukraine is towards 135 million US dollars. There are over 500 enterprises. Another part of the relationship between these two countries is composed of Black Sea Economic Cooperation which both are the members. (http://www.mfa.gov.tr/turkiye-ukrayna-ekonomik-iliskileri.tr.mfa)   Moreover, Turkey and Ukraine support each other in international organizations such as UN, CoE, and OSCE. Military relations are conducted both on bilateral basis and within the framework of NATO-Ukraine Commission, BLACKSEAFOR and Operation Black Sea Harmony.(http://www.mfa.gov.tr/turkey_s-political-relations-with-ukraine.en.mfa)

In 2003, Turkey declared Ukraine as privileged State status so Ukraine became privileged in Turkey’s foreign policy. There have been several negotiations of the Foreign and Prime Ministers of both countries. In January 2007, Prime Minister Yanukovich visited Turkey and Operation Black Sea Harmony was signed.


In conclusion, after evaluating the Ukraine’s triple transition period, we have reached some important points. Although there have been some attempts to fully implement democracy, there are some obstacles.

At first glance, the problems seem to be resulted from its communist past and Russian influence. Ukraine does not fully integrate as Ukrainian society. The problematic national transition of Ukraine can be traced back to this period. Seperatist minority groups, ethnic Russians and Crimean Tatars, keep Ukraine deal with its internal problems rather than economic ones.

Economic crises which resulted from the price of gas fluctuations led to frustration within the country. Another obstacle that Ukraine faces with is its dependency on Russia in terms of energy. If it does not overcome this struggle, it seems to restrict Ukraine’s regional power. However, explaining Ukrainian internal conflicts only with the Russia based reasons would be wrong. Russia is extremely influential factor but we should not underestimate the other factors.

In Ukraine, there are not only two cleavages that split the country. Ukrainians are divided also among themselves. It is clear that Ukrainian part and Russified part in Ukraine exist and surprisingly there was no civil war because there is no clear distinction between these counterparts. One of the most important sign for democracy is civil society and in Ukraine it can be seen as the strongest among the other Post-Communist states though it is not in Western standards. This led to the Orange Revolution that increased the political competition however; it could not succeed in long term reforms.

Political instabilities and crisis environment became continuous in which Yanukovych’s pro-Russian attitudes and Yushchenko’s Ukrainian nationalism competed. Besides Ukrainian society chose best of the worst option because of the high level of corruption. As a matter of fact that in the first place Ukraine should focus on the problem of high level of corruption as the society expected to do so. The reason hidden behind society’s choice for Yanukovych is his claims on economic solutions rather than his political views.

After all, the analytical outcomes show that Ukraine does not fully achieve a consolidated democracy. Although civil society and independent media paint a promising Picture, it has more things to do in order to reach the standards of Western democracies. Especially, the deficiency in the reforms on the political institutions should be reconsidered. Nevertheless, Ukraine succeeded sufficient triple transition, coming after the Baltic States, when we compared it to the remaining post-Soviet countries like the Caucasus and the Central Asia.


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