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Territorial politics in Ukraine during transition from authoritarian rule

Final Report Summary - TERRITORIAL POLITICS (Territorial politics in Ukraine during transition from authoritarian rule)

Marie Curie project TERRITORIAL POLITICS investigated interconnections between territorial politics and democratisation in Ukraine. The project examined and explained the previously unexplored areas of multi-level elections and party politics in Ukraine (2006 - 2010). It was hosted by Politics and International Relations Department and the Institute of Governance at the University of Edinburgh, the United Kingdom. Research was mentored by Prof. Charlie Jeffery and conducted by Dr Valentyna Romanova. The project benefited from collabouration with the Marie Curie project on the constituent political cultures of Europe, which was led by Prof. Ailsa Henderson at the University of Edinburgh (2008 - 2012).

The Marie Curie project has challenged previous knowledge about democracy and elections in Ukraine. It has added a crucial dimension to previous understanding of the statewide regime trajectory in a post-communist state outside the European Union (EU).

The outputs of the project are two-fold. First, they advance theories on democratisation and territorial politics (academic output). Second, they inform European policy-making regarding Ukraine (non-academic output).

(1) The Marie Curie project explained how territorial politics affects statewide democratisation in Ukraine. The project demonstrated how and why overlooking the centre-periphery relations in the 2004 constitutional reform of Ukraine challenged the statewide political regime that was crafted during the Orange revolution and was meant to lead to a more democratic system of governance. The deliverable is a published article in Regional and Federal Studies - the leading European journal in the field of territorial politics.

(2) In Ukraine, the vote shares of parties at national and regional elections in the same regions differ. Previous research on general elections in Ukraine finds that strong statewide parties score the most in their 'core' constituencies (i.e. in western, central, or eastern Ukraine). The Marie Curie project finds that at regional elections strong statewide parties attract less votes than they do at general elections; moreover, they lose the most in their 'core' constituencies. This happens disregarding the trajectory of political regime.

What accounts for the dissimilarity of multi-level elections in Ukraine?

a) The dissimilarity of voting behaviour at multi-level elections is explained by the territorial structures of social cleavages in Ukraine. This explanation holds only when elections are democratic. The vote shares of parties at national and regional elections in the same regions differ the most in regions where the residents possess higher scores for Ukrainian culture, European identity, standard of living, and regional distinctiveness. Regions, where people prefer pro-Ukrainian language policies, demonstrate relatively congruent outcomes of multi-level elections. Regional blocs, as well as parties that stand for regional elections in one or several regions are the most successful in regions with higher scores for the Ukrainian language and the standard of living. Strong identification of voters with Ukrainian culture raises the electoral support for statewide parties and decreased the vote shares of parties that stand for regional elections in one or several regions and for regional blocs.

b) Also, multi-level elections in Ukraine are dissimilar due to the logic of party competition. Strong statewide parties prioritise general elections and aim at winning votes in as many constituencies as possible. For these purposes, they modify their key messages and diffuse their initial territorial appeal. Voters in their 'core' constituencies still support such parties at general elections; however, at regional contests the same voters appear to cast their ballot for those parties and blocs that tailor their campaigns to the specific interests of regional electorates. These tend to be small parties, regional blocs, and parties that stand for regional elections in one or several regions.

When the democratic profile of Ukraine improves, the structures of parties' interactions at national and regional electoral arenas become incongruent. When the democratic record drops, they become relatively congruent. Under the democratic rule, the extent of ideological polarisation between parties that dominate regional assemblies, on the one hand, and parties that are represented in regional state administrations, on the other hand, grows. The decrease of ideological polarisation between the respective regional authorities has been observed in the times of democratic shortcomings. The lack of ideological polarisation might give an impression of political stability. However, it leaves little room for balancing the divided public interests via party competition. When public interests are not represented via political parties, they seek for the alternative means of representation, including 'party-free' public protests with no partisan responsibility. Such 'side effects' of political stability can threaten domestic democratic achievements in Ukraine.

The deliverable is a co-authored article (with Ailsa Henderson) on the 2006 multi-level elections in Ukraine (under review for Electoral Studies - a world leading international journal in electoral politics) and an article on regional elections in 2006 and 2010 in Ukraine (in print in Perspectives of European Politics and Society - the international peer-reviewed journal that focuses on the new developments in European politics).

(3) The leading theory on multi-level voting - the second order elections theory - claims that voting at simultaneous multi-level elections should be congruent. The project tested the principle against the cases that provided the highest possible variation of the two explanatory variables: regional autonomy and regional parties. The cases were simultaneous multi-level elections in Belgium (1995 and 1999), France (1986), Sweden (2002, 2006, and 2010), and Ukraine (2006). Marie Curie research has found that strong regional autonomy is not enough for breaking the 'second order' logic of regional elections at simultaneous elections. When the same parties contest multi-level elections, the electoral outcomes are largely the same even in a highly regionalised federation. The variable of regional authority can break the 'second order' logic of regional elections, when it is slightly stronger institutional arrangements on other regions of the state, on the one hand, and when statewide and regional parties win seats in regional assemblies, on the other hand. In this case any special institutional arrangements for regions decrease the 'second order' effects of regional elections at simultaneous elections. The project has found that the 'second order' effects of regional elections at simultaneous multi-level elections in a unitary state with no established regional parties can drop, when the general elections lead to the shift of the governing coalition in the centre. This leads to the conclusion that the scope for further research on simultaneous multi-level elections might go beyond the expectations that are driven by the second order elections theory. Thus, the project has sharpened the postulates of the theory and contributed to the understanding of voting behaviour at simultaneous multi-level elections in democracies. The deliverable is an article, accepted for publication (subject to revisions) in Politics.

(4) The Marie Curie project included the international workshop 'Territorial Politics in Western and Eastern Europe' (14 - 15 June 2012). It brought together multi-disciplinary academic teams and provided a platform for collabouration between the world-class and early-career academics from the field of post-communist studies and territorial politics. The workshop opened up the informed discussion on developing a common theoretical framework for understanding and comparing territorial politics in Western and Eastern Europe in a multidisciplinary context. The academic deliverable is a special issue for Europe-Asia studies, which is under contract with the published and is expected to be published in 2014. The Consulate General of Ukraine attended the event and acknowledged its added value for the informed discussion of the ongoing constitutional reform in Ukraine.

(5) The Marie Curie findings formed the basis for research-led teaching and developing an academic course 'Territorial politics of Ukraine in comparative perspective'. The University of 'Kyiv-Mohyla academy' - the leading Ukrainian university in the sphere of social and political sciences - has already expressed its interest in the course. Dr Valentyna Romanova - Marie Curie International Incoming Fellow - will convene the course in summer semester 2012 / 2013.

(6) Main Marie Curie research findings were presented as a policy brief 'Democratisation in Ukraine: Bottom-up perspectives' and circulated to research institutions and think tanks, which study Ukrainian politics and advise on policy recommendations for Ukraine.