Thursday, January 28, 2010

Quality of Election Administration, Part 6

The Yanukovych and Tymoshenko campaigns have been casting aspersions at each other, alleging preparations for falsification of the upcoming second round. The campaigns have battled over a ballot printing facility, a judge on the Kyiv High Court of Appeals (that adjudicates election disputes), and now the sitting Minister of the Interior. While the Rada voted to oust him today, he will remain in place until a replacement is named. Tymoshenko is unlikely to put this high on her agenda, preferring to keep Lutsenko in his post.

Another Upcoming Election

While my attention remains fixed on events in Ukraine, the campaign season has begun in Tajikistan. After the dust settles in Ukraine's February 7 runoff, I will post some information about Tajikistan's contest as well.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Tipping His Hat?

Sergey Tihipko has remained coy about aligning with Viktor Yanukovych or Yuliya Tymoshenko. However, National Radio reports that he considers Yuliya's "offer much stronger..." than Yanukovych's. Of course, neither candidate can promise Tihipko the PM's post. While the president can nominate the PM, constitutional reforms leave the final decision in the hands of the parliamentary majority (or a coalition).

Tihipko has an opportunity to "cash in" in the short term, extracting the best package from one of the campaigns. But, a strength of his campaign was his ability to avoid clear identification with either camp. If Tihipko thinks longer-term, he might be better off heading his own party in the next parliamentary election (which may come sooner rather than later). This strategy has greater risks - his star may not continue to rise as he engages in the messy politics in Kyiv - but has potentially great rewards. If he maintains his image as an "independent" voice and strong leader, he could fare much better in the next presidential contest. Five years is an eternity in politics, especially in Ukraine, which is why politicians typically seem to favor short-term benefits.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Thoughts on the Runoff

On my return to the US, I was contemplating the data that I would want/need to conduct a systematic assessment of the upcoming runoff between Viktor Yanukovych and Yuliya Tymoshenko. Most valuable would be solid public opinion data that perhaps oversampled supporters of losing candidates, and those who did not vote, to assess their likely behavior in round 2. But, I do not have access to these data. However, in the grand, centuries-old tradition of blogging, I will not let the absence of these data deter my analysis and commentary.

I have compiled, as a starting point, election results from the Central Electoral Commission at the national and regional levels. While I plan to acquire and assess precinct-level data, that is a more time-consuming task. In the short-run, I am focusing on data aggregated at the oblast level. A caveat before I continue: the analysis of data at this level of aggregation runs afoul of the ecological inference problem. Indeed, the behavior I am interested in assessing is at the individual-level, but the data are at a higher level of aggregation. A second caveat, always applied to projections of second-round contests, is that the composition of voters may change. In fact, changing the composition of voters is to the campaigns' advantages, as I will argue below. With these caveats in mind, here is some preliminary analysis.

While all of the ballots have not been included in the tally, the results are unlikely to change significantly (although they will change slightly). According to the data from the CEC, Yanukovych claimed 35.32%, Tymoshenko 25.05%, Tihipko 13.06%, Yatseniuk 6.96%, Yushchenko 5.45%, and the remaining 13 candidates and against all picking up the rest of the valid ballots. All of the losers are players, to one degree or another, in round 2, but Tihipko is in a particularly strong position to negotiate terms with both camps.

Using the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology's polling from a few weeks before the first round, I performed a little thought experiment. The KIIS poll asked likely voters for all candidates who they would support in a round 2 matchup between Yanukovych and Tymoshenko. For many minor candidates the number of respondents indicating support was small, rendering their answers on this question problematic (for example, if two people indicated support for candidate Protivsikh, and one supported Yanukovych in hypothetical round 2 and the other Tymoshenko, it could be problematic to project a 50-50 split in the Protivsikh vote). In addition, the poll was taken well before the round 1 moratorium and positions may change. Nevertheless, it is an interesting starting point to consider.

I used the preferences of respondents to estimate how votes could break in round 2. Yuliya begins with a 2.5 million vote gap. Support from losers narrows the gap by 500,000 (that is, Yuliya picks up a higher proportion of votes from losers than Yanukovych), but the estimates still leave roughly 4.2 million voters (around 17%) from round 1 unallocated. Of particular note, based on the KIIS survey results, Yanukovych takes more Tihipko supporters than Tymoshenko. But, nearly 40% of Tihipko's supporters did not express a preference.

In addition, I compiled data from the presidential election, as well as the last two parliamentary contests, and used ArcGIS to generate various maps displaying the results. You may click on the maps for larger versions.

This map displays Yanukovych's performance across the country, with oblasts color-coded by .15 increments. The choice of increments can exert a strong effect on the way we interpret maps, and I may generate some different versions in later posts. There are few surprises here, with Yanukovych performing well in the east, especially Donetsk and Luhansk. Perhaps his relatively weaker performance in Dnipropetrovsk is a surprise, at first glance, but this is an issue that I will return to momentarily.

Tymoshenko's results are also unsurprising. She performed well in the west, especially Volyn and Vinnystia. Her strongest regional performances fall below Yanukovych, a point which could prove to be advantageous in round 2.

The third-place finisher, Sergey Tihipko, showed several areas of strength. Most notably, he placed well in Dnipropetrovsk and Odesa, as well as in Kyiv, Kharkiv, Zaporizka, and Sevastopol. Please note that his performance is displayed in .05 increments. Two more maps, for Arseniy Yatseniuk and Viktor Yushchenko:

Like Tihipko, Yatseniuk's performance is displayed in smaller increments (Yushchenko is in .15 increments due to his performance in the west). Yatseniuk had some strength in Chernivtsy and Ivano-Frankivsk, and Yushchenko did well in L'viv, Ternopil, and Ivano-Frankivsk.

Now, some thoughts for both campaigns.
  • Mobilize core voters. While this is an obvious recommendation, it is particularly important because round 2 may be close. Not only do both campaigns need to energize voters who showed up to the polls, but they also need to engage voters who did not. Tymoshenko might face a greater challenge regarding the latter. Western oblasts had relatively high turnout. Yanukovych might be able to make gains increasing turnout in Odesa, Crimea, Kirovohrad, and Mykolaivsk (and perhaps in Kherson and Zakarpattya also). Tymoshenko may be able to benefit from higher turnout in Chernivets - a region that disproportionately supported Yatseniuk and had second-to-lowest regional turnout. But, the population of Chernivets is low compared to regions where Yanukovych may benefit from mobilization.
  • De-mobilize potential voters for the opposition. Some of this strategy depends on how the campaigns perceive voter preferences among supporters of Yatseniuk and Yushchenko. If they are perceived as having anti-Yuliya attitudes, but even stronger anti-Yanukovych attitudes, then the Tymoshenko campaign benefits from some conciliatory gestures. Yanukovych benefits from reminding them how much they dislike Yuliya. If these voters are generally perceived as anti-Yuliya (especially Yushchenko voters given the personal animosity between the two), then Yanukovych benefits from attempting to mobilize them, and Yuliya benefits from de-mobilizing them.
  • Get Tihipko Voters. Tihipko has many options to consider. It is unclear how loyal his supporters may be, so his endorsement may or may not bring these voters along. But, his supporters were strong in especially important areas. The following maps show how support for Tymoshenko and Yanukovych changed between 2006 and 2010, as well as 2007 and 2010. Another caveat: I am comparing parliamentary election results with presidential ones. The decision-making algorithm for voters, as well as the choice set, probably differs. But, the personalistic nature of parties and campaigns renders this comparison not wholly unreasonable.

    These maps show Yanukovych's changes in fortune between the the parliamentary elections and the first round of the presidential contest. Note especially Yanukovych losses in Dnipropetrovsk and Zaporizka.

    Similar to the Yanukovych maps, the Tymoshenko maps reveal some losses in areas of Tihipko gain (again, Dnipropetrovsk looms large).

    Expect to see strong efforts to gain Dnipropetrovsk from both campaigns. In addition, the Kyiv region, Kharkiv, Kherson, Odesa, and Zaporizka could be strongly contested.

  • Picking up votes. For Yanukovych, Yuliya's potential to pick up votes from competitors in the West is a potential problem. In Yuliya's best region (Volyn), she beat Yanukovych by 44 points. In Yanukovych's best region, he beat Tymoshenko by 72 points. This map shows the gap between the candidates. Regions leaning to Yanukovych are reflected by positive values.

    Yanukovych's top competitors were not as strong as Yuliya's in their respective regions of strength. But, while Yanukovych has less to gain in terms of the percentage of voters that he might acquire from competitors, his areas of strength have substantially larger populations.
As in most elections, mobilization will be a key task for both campaigns. As I have noted before, however, the specter of fraud haunts the election as well. More commentary on that issue, as well as Tihipko's options will follow.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Quality of Election Administration, Part 5

International observers praised the election, with the OSCE noting that administration met "most" international standards. In the post-Soviet region, this is indeed high praise. The EU delegation also praised the election's quality, with a member of the European Parliament indicating that Ukraine is "...closer to the West, to the EU, than I thought."

The campaigns continue to allege falsification, with Aleksandr Turchinov from the Tymoshenko campaign office claiming that 6% was shifted (3% away from her, 3% added to Yanukovych). Yanukovych supporters demonstrated and celebrated at the CEC offices.

Second Round Issues

Two-round systems present challenging dynamics for campaigns. The first round must be taken seriously, even by leading candidates, lest they meet the same fate as Lionel Jospin in France's 2002 presidential election (to be fair to Jospin, his problem had more to do with a split leftist vote than lack of attention). But, the leading candidates can't expend too many resources as they must ensure that they retain the ability to fight and win the second round battle. At the same time, they have to curry favor with minor candidates to extract support - and potentially supporters - in the second round, and mobilize their core voters to come to the polls for the decisive vote. Both the Yanukovych and Tymoshenko campaigns have to carefully assess the answers to several questions as they proceed:
  • How can they ensure that their supporters turn out in the second round? Turnout was lower in 2010 than in other elections, but this may be partly due to falsification in earlier contests. Core supporters seem likely to return to the polls. But, how can they mobilize new supporters (and undermine turnout by opponents' supporters)?
  • How costly are endorsements from the first round losers? To curry favor with other politicians, they have to get something in return.
  • How much benefit do first round losers bring? While some first round losers performed well, especially Tihipko, the campaigns must assess if the losers have mobilizational leverage among their voters to convince many to participate in the second round and vote in a particular manner. If voters would naturally gravitate to one of the candidates, the campaigns have to assess if they worth buying off (e.g., Petro Symonenko supporters are likely to choose Yanukovych in large numbers. Symonenko's support is likely to be less valuable - and less costly - than other candidates' endorsements).

Results are Coming In

Results are still being counted, but outcome yields no big surprises (official CEC results are here). With 78% of the vote finalized, Yanukovych leads with 36%, followed by Tymoshenko with 25%. [UPDATE: No real change with 95% counted: Yanukovych now has 35%, Tymoshenko 25%, and Tihipko 13%. Turnout is reported to be 66.7%] Sergey Tihipko indeed surged, but did not approach surviving into the second round. He will be a major player, however, as the two front-runners prepare for the February 7th runoff.

These results track closely with exit polls released right after voting ended. The geographic distribution is also as anticipated, with Yanukovych taking the east and south, and Tymoshenko dominating in the west and center. The only exception is the Zakarpatska region, where the SDPU(o) was dominant historically, supported Yanukovych. I will review the spatial distribution of votes once the final results are in, as they may give us valuable information for round 2.

My internet access is still down, so updates will be sporadic until my return to the US later this week.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Election Day Update

The contentious end to the campaign has continued on election day, with the Tymoshenko and Yanukovych camps trading accusations about efforts commit fraud (more here).  In addition, a controversy about voting at home using the mobile ballot box has intensified.  

At the moment, the CEC is posting updated turnout figures, based on 3:00 p.m. reporting from the polling sites.  Turnout was 16.2% at 11:00 a.m. and is reported to be 39.47 at 3:00 p.m. (although it is not quite yet 3:00 here.  The value may be based on partial results and will be updated as more electoral commissions report in).

I will continue to post updates as Internet access allows.  My apartment's cable and Internet inexplicably went out 36 hours ago (supposedly the whole building is out).  The provider claims to be working on the problem, but I have seen no evidence yet.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Quality of Election Administration, Part 4

The campaign moratorium begins tomorrow (Saturday), and campaigns are lobbing their final barbs at one another, and holding rallies tonight. The Yanukovych affair is a few blocks away from my apartment at the square outside St. Sophia's. It features a full menu of Ukrainian pop music that I do not enjoy (to be fair, some Ukrainian acts are quite good, but they are not at this gig), and a brief speech from the candidate. His performance on last night's Shuster program was lackluster and a bit unfocused. He has been on message during the campaign, but seems more comfortable with prepared texts.

Earlier today, I attended a press conference from the major Ukrainian NGO the Committee of Voters of Ukraine. The CVU has been at the forefront of training election workers and monitoring election administration. The basic message was that the quality of election administration and the campaign has shown substantial progress and massive, systematic fraud is unlikely. Rather, the bigger problems are inadequate financing of the election, lack of professionalism among some lower-level electoral commissions, and the overly political character of decisions coming from the CEC.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Quality of Election Administration, Part 3

The drama about the registration of 2,011 observers from Georgia continues, with a court ruling that the CEC registration denial was improper (UPDATE: the CEC plans to appeal). Reuters and other news agencies have also reported on opportunities to buy and sell votes online. You can read some of the ads yourself here on the craigslist of Ukraine (in Russian). Prices range from 200 grivnya ($25) to over 1000 ($125). Vote buying has a long tradition (Cox and Kousser's 1981 article on vote fraud in the United States notes that newspapers published the going rate for votes). But, with no real mechanism to guarantee the vote, and a relatively high cost in the advertisements, this method of vote buying/selling is unlikely to be a widespread problem. But, it makes good copy.

More Polling Data

Unfortunately, much of the commentary on Ukraine's politics (including some of my own) is based on impressions rather than more rigorous data analysis. The tendency to tea-leaf reading is a tradition in the study of the region, and is propelled by poor access to good data. The Pew Global Attitudes Project has just published results of a September 2009 survey that provides some insights into political dynamics in Ukraine. The survey confirms the findings of locally-managed surveys on the low popularity of the incumbent president, as well as conventional wisdom about the public's fatigue with the current state of politics. Notably, the multiparty system and capitalism experienced a drop in support from 1991-2009 (42 points for the multiparty system, 16 for capitalism). In addition, 69% of respondents supported "a strong leader" and 20% democratic government (of course, the two are not wholly incompatible). In 1991, 57% supported democratic government. While the differences may be due, in part, to the time points (the collapse of the communist system at on one end and the current economic crisis on the other may produce more extreme expressions of attitudes), the results correspond with local observations about public preferences for stability and decisive leadership in Kyiv.

Is Tihipko Surging?

The New York Times reports on "surprising gains" by Sergey Tihipko in recent days. Since publication of Ukrainian polls is not allowed because of the proximity to election day, this report relies on Russia's VTsIOM agency. While once an independent polling firm run by Yuriy Levada, the new VTsIOM has been branded as part of the Kremlin machine. While I do not have access to the raw data and cannot independently assess the poll, I suspect that it overstates Tihipko's gains. Although he was trending upward in Ukrainian polls, he was not on pace to catch Tymoshenko. But, we only have to wait until Monday to find out...

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Political Consultants

It is well known in Ukraine and the US that foreign political consultants - especially Americans - are behind the scenes of the major campaigns. After Viktor Yanukovych's failure to become president in 2004, he began working with Paul Manafort, a consultant who worked with many Republican candidates (including Kansas' own Bob Dole). The 2010 election also features advisers from the Obama campaign working for Yuliya Tymoshenko, and advisers from the Clinton campaign working for Viktor Yushchenko.

Some campaigns have failed to engage with good PR specialists, however. Arseniy Yatsenyuk is a young politician whose star was on the rise. His stint as speaker of parliament was marred by his inability to herd Ukrainian cats (please note: Slavs in fact train cats although they have not yet made the Only In Ukraine blog...). He has recently fallen prey to a Michael Dukakis syndrome, trying to portray himself in ways that do not match his skills and abilities. While he has not been filmed in a tank, awkward tractor driving and bare-chested poses are ill-suited. The Kyiv Post article linked above attributes the Yatseniuk's errors to Russian political consultants who opted to portray him as a "military-style leader."

Quality of Election Administration, Part 2

The rhetoric on fraud has heated up. Tymoshenko has raised concerns about efforts at massive vote theft using mobile ballot boxes, especially in the east. Yanukovych turned Shakespearean for his reply: "a guilty mind betrays itself.") (see the BBC and Reuters versions of the story as well as the Jamestown Foundation's assessment. Also, see Henry VI, Part 3, Act 5, Scene 6 for Yanukovych's source material). President Yushchenko made more thoughtful and measured comments on the same subject at a press conference. Part three of this post will probably come sooner rather than later.

A Counter-factual

On tonight's Savik Shuster program, candidate Sergiy Tigipko was asked if he would have won the 2004 presidential election if he had been the establishment candidate instead of Viktor Yanukovych. His answer echoes conventional wisdom, even at the time: yes. Of course, as a counter-factual perhaps a less definitive answer is needed (maybe, but leaning positively).

Tigipko has a strong profile: he was Vice-Premier for Economics in Pavlo Lazarenko's government, Minister of Economics in Viktor Yushchenko's government, elected an MP on the "For United Ukraine" list in 2002, and director of the Central Bank. He led Viktor Yanukovych's failed campaign in 2004, and left politics after that defeat. When he joined the election campaign in 2009, some suggested that he would be a technical candidate for Yuliya Tymoshenko. But, he has run a credible campaign.

To sum it up, Tigipko has been associated with all major contenders - and sides - but has been out of politics over the last five years. He has credible outsider credentials, and also is capable of projecting a strong public image. But, with poll numbers well below Tymoshenko (half or less), he is unlikely to catch up even though his trajectory was ticking upward. His name should pop up in the second round as he is courted - by both camps - perhaps with a cabinet position or as a potential prime minister down the line.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Quality of Election Administration, Part 1

I anticipate that the issue of election quality - and accusations of fraud - will be a regular theme during both rounds. Many campaigns have alleged that improprieties will occur in 2010. The Yanukovych campaign, via an analysis by its political consultants from Manafort (more on this later), identified regions in the western part of the country where they warn of potential fraud. The Tymoshenko campaign has just criticized a Central Electoral Commission decision to deny credentials to a couple of thousand Georgians.

Based on my conversations with political observers over the past couple of days, the denial stems from decisions by actors on both sides of the debate. I was told that the Georgians were planning to stage an observation mission that would heavily oversample the east, implying that they were targeting the Party of Regions. In addition, CEC votes have reflected the "party line" on some issues, with the majority supporting the Party of Regions. Politicized electoral commissions created problems in the last presidential election (and I observed biased decision-making in polling stations that I would attribute to the capture of commissions through technical candidates). Misbehavior at the polls is likely to be more sophisticated and diffuse than in 2004, but both rounds are likely to feature allegations of improper behavior all over the country.

Policy, Office, or Votes?

President Yushchenko's campaign has reprinted a New Republic article (the original is here) that likens Yuliya Tymoshenko to Evita Peron (or perhaps the reincarnation of Peron). The profile is a mixed bag of insinuations, interpretations, and amateur psychological profiling. While I do not claim to understand Tymoshenko as deeply as the author, the article provokes a few thoughts:
  • The profile notes that Yuliya's leadership style is not democratic. This observation is hardly a surprise for a politician with an eponymous political party.
  • Tymoshenko is a populist, and policy positions detailed on her website showcase this tendency. She directs barbs at oligarchs and promises a range of policy outcomes: anti-corruption measures, new technological and industrial development, energy independence, improved education (including free Internet access for all children) and health, poverty reduction (and significant state spending), a European orientation (but a veiled reference to NATO accession only through a referendum), cordial relations with Russia, and an end to a conscription-based armed forces. Like many populists, she makes promises beyond the capacity to pay for them, is associated with the very forces she criticizes, and seems to approach policies opportunistically rather than ideologically.
  • The profile's characterization of Tymoshenko as a politician pursuing "absolute power" corresponds with the author's concerns that a Tymoshenko victory could lead to a "...short authoritarian experiment..." The failure to manage a party in a democratic manner hardly guarantees that the leader will rule a country in an authoritarian manner. Party organizations vary, with some featuring centralized decision-making that leaves little space for rank-and-file members to influence platform development, nominations, or strategies and others permitting more input from members. While Tymoshenko notes that she opposes constitutional changes that took effect in 2006, reducing the power of the presidency, enhancing presidential power is not equivalent to authoritarianism.
The profile is perhaps over-the-top, but it revolves around a valuable question: what motivates Tymoshenko? A 1999 book by Muller and Strom that shares the title as this post addresses how political parties manage their affairs to achieve their preferred policy outcomes, control government operations, and maintain - or expand - their appeal among citizens. Sometimes the actions needed to maximize performance in one of these areas impedes another. Their book addresses how party leaders manage these challenges. Tymoshenko's career path certainly suggests that office-seeking is a primary motivator. Without consistent policy to serve as a guide, it is unclear what she would pursue next if she were to gain the highest office in the land.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Yushchenko's Rise and Fall

Ukrainska Pravda published an analysis of Viktor Yushchenko's decline in popularity (link is to the Google translate version; the original is here) focusing on critical events over the last five years. The UP article draws from the Razumkov Center's polling and analysis. and uses responses to the question: "Do you trust the work of Viktor Yushchenko?" that has been tracked since 2002. Respondents were presented with three options: "fully support," "support individual actions," "do not support," in addition to "do not know [his work]," and "hard to say." The UP assessment focused only on the first response - "fully support" - and traced the dynamics of responses over time.

It may be more useful to look not at full support, but rather both flavors of support together. The graph below presents full and partial support combined (blue), along with dissatisfaction (orange). While the trends that UP points out generally persist, the intensity of change differs. For example, the change in attitudes about Yushchenko reflected in the June-October 2008 results are a small downward blip in the UP article; the decline is more precipitous with full and partial support added together. The increase in "no support" rises to 75.6% of respondents from June-October 2008 - an increase of 20 percentage points from the June 2008 poll. The financial crisis and President Yushchenko's failed bid to hold another early parliamentary election loom large over that period, and could constitute explanatory factors.

More than 50% of respondents trusted Yushchenko in almost all periods prior to and during the Orange Revolution. Since early 2008, trust has dissipated to only 19% in the October 2009 poll. No realistic scenario predicts Yushchenko's re-election. However, rumors have circulated of an agreement between Yushchenko and Yanukovych in which Yushchenko would be nominated for the post of prime minister (as well as receive some policy concessions) in exchange for help challenging Tymoshenko. Yushchenko's lack of popularity suggests that if the agreement were real, Yanukovych has a strong incentive to renege on his end of the bargain. While Yanukovych might benefit from a non-aggression deal with Yushchenko, and perhaps gain support from Yushchenko's administrative resources, Yanukovych gains little from nominating such an unpopular politician to be prime minister.

Moreover, since parliament gained more authority over the appointment of the prime minister after constitutional reforms took effect in 2006, it is not clear that Yushchenko could bring along enough deputies to scuttle the current coalition government and hand over the reins to Yanukovych.

Yanukovych and Wedge Issues

Last Thursday's Komsomolskaya Pravda in Ukraine published an interesting interview with Viktor Yanukovych. The entire text is here (in Russian). Google Translate produces a serviceable translation for non-Russian speakers. While none of Yanukovych's comments were particularly surprising, he repeats critical talking points: the Orange Revolution produced corruption, the current leadership is not capable of governing, Russian-speakers' rights are restricted, and Ukraine should not pursue NATO membership. The latter two points speak directly to issues he has used in the past to mobilize voters. Below are some comments I found to be interesting or notable.
  • On election fraud in 2004: "Ведь за прошедшие пять лет после Майдана факт фальсификации выборов так и не был доказан в судах. И это лишь подтверждает, что во втором туре выборов в 2004 году все прошло законно." Yanukovych indicates that the "fact of election falsification has not been proven in court... [and] that in the second round of the election in 2004 everything proceeded lawfully." Interestingly, and perhaps ironically, the Yanukovych campaign has been making the case that fraud may be in the works for the 2010 election - in the western parts of the country favoring his main rival Yuliya Tymoshenko. I have read an analysis, produced by the American political consulting group Davis Manafort, alleging that many polling stations in western Ukraine produced anomalous results detrimental to the Party of Regions and implying that fraud would be employed in the west in 2010. While I do not dispute the potential for fraud in many regions of Ukraine, the evidence supports contentions of fraud in 2004 (even though that evidence may not have been tested in court).

  • On democracy and the Orange Revolution: "Сегодня «оранжевые» вожди Тимошенко, Ющенко говорят о том, что мы в Украине получили демократию, свободу слова… Хорошо, что мы так продвинулись вперед в вопросах свободы, но что касается демократии… Тут я бы возразил. Потому что демократия - это прежде всего выполнение законов и Конституции." Further in the interview, he asks rhetorically, "What has the Orange Revolution given us? Only freedom of speech? What price has the Ukrainian people paid for this?" Yanukovych's separation of "questions of freedom" from the definition of democracy - and identifying democracy with fulfilling legal requirements - harkens back to Soviet era characterizations of democracy.

  • On NATO: "Однозначно Украина была и будет внеблоковым государством, таким, каким она является сегодня. Мы не будем стремиться вступать ни в НАТО, ни в ОДКБ. Мы сохраним нейтральный статус." Yanukovych has been consistent in his opposition to NATO membership, noting that Ukraine should remain neutral. Neutrality is not really the objective. Instead, the target is a return to the Leonid Kuchma era "multi-vector" foreign policy which was rather successful in balancing Ukrainian independence, warmer relations with Europe, and civil relations with Russia.

  • On the status of Russian language: "Первый шаг, который я сделаю, - это принятие закона о языках в парламенте, который предусматривает имплементацию Европейской Хартии региональных языков или языков меньшинств. Это позволит нам снять то напряжение, которое есть в русскоговорящих регионах. Они получат право разговаривать на своем родном языке и применять его в делопроизводстве, в сфере образования, в медицине, в судах. Это главный вопрос, который нужно сейчас решить и который очень серьезно волнует людей." Yanukovych's pledge to pass language legislation will be a real test, especially if he wins the presidency and manages to obtain a parliamentary majority in subsequent elections. In recent elections, his Party of Regions has turned to its bread-and-butter issues to mobilize voters as voting approaches. The most effective issues to engage core supporters have been NATO membership and the status of Russian-language speakers. Enacting and implementing legislation to elevate the status of Russian would remove this seemingly effective mobilization tool.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

The View from Kyiv

Over the next few days, I will be posting observations about Ukraine's presidential campaign and both rounds of the election.

The road from Kyiv-Boryspil Airport to the city's center is lined with campaign advertisements. While the route from the airport does not give a representative sample of advertising, the impressions that one gathers from glancing at the signs can be useful. Yuliya Tymoshenko's image is ubiquitous; Viktor Yanukovych and Viktor Yushchenko were also advertising in force. Fewer billboards supported Sergey Tihipko, Lyudmila Suprun, and the other pretenders to the throne. However, even Vasyl Protivsikh (the recently re-named Vasyl Gumenyuk whose surname now means "Against All") had a few signs along the road. Campaign activity was understated on Maidan Nezalezhnosti, crowds milling around seemed to be more focused on the holiday season. More comments are forthcoming after I begin work on Monday.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Polls in Ukraine

Beginning today, reports of public opinion polls are prohibited (the law does not permit publication fifteen or fewer days prior to an election). I have not obtained raw polling data to make an independent assessment, but all signs point to Yuliya Tymoshenko and Viktor Yanukovych emerging from the first round on January 17. The Kyiv Post has published results of polling from several agencies that predict Yanukovych to emerge with the most votes in the first round.

As the election approaches, contenders and the media will direct attention to election administration. Some of my Ukrainian colleagues at CIFRA have published an interesting analysis of electoral commission membership that is worth reading (in Russian).

Friday, January 1, 2010

Elections in 2010

Several countries in the region are planning to hold elections in 2010. Firm (and tentative) dates from IFES' Election Guide follow:

January 10 - Uzbekistan's parliamentary election (Round 2 in 39 districts)
January 17 - Ukraine's presidential election (Round 1)
February 21 - Tajikistan's parliamentary election
October 2 - Latvia's parliamentary election
November 7 - Azerbaijan's parliamentary election
Fall (date TBA) - Moldova's pre-term parliamentary election

Political observers also expect efforts to dissolve Ukraine's parliament and hold early elections after the dust settles from the presidential election.