Policy Memos

Polarizing the Country? Yanukovych's Authoritarian Game between Russia and the EU on the Eve of Ukraine's 2012 Parliamentary Elections

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Ukraine is too regionally and politically diverse to allow a single entity to monopolize power—this “pluralism by default” makes the Ukrainian political system more balanced than the Russian one. The electoral divide between, on the one hand, Ukraine’s south and east and, on the other, its west and center has persisted in every election since 1990. However, in the 2004 presidential election, Ukrainian politics were deliberately and dangerously polarized by former president Leonid Kuchma, who relied on Kremlin support to secure the succession of his prime minister Viktor Yanukovych.

By contrast, opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko managed to move beyond traditional voting patterns, whereby national-democrats existed mainly in the geographic west and center. Yushchenko concentrated on slogans common to the whole country—European values, social justice, rule of law, and the struggle with corruption. This proved to be an important factor in his electoral victory and in the Orange Revolution struggle against electoral fraud.

Nonetheless, due to polarizing strategies that his opponents employed, including pro-Russian slogans and an anti-Western, anti-American propaganda campaign, the country emerged from the 2004 elections extremely polarized. [...] 

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About the author

Professor, Founding Director of the Kyiv Mohyla University School of Policy Analysis
National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy