Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Ideal Ukrainian Deputy

The Ukrainian media reported today (Liga, UP, ZN) on a Razumkov Center poll asking respondents about their preferred characteristics for members of parliament. I couldn't find the details of the poll on the Razumkov site, so I don't know about the sample or question wording. But, taking the reports at face value (sometimes a perilous assumption), the survey highlights an observation about Ukrainian politics that I have made in the past: divisions are not simply captured by "East vs. West." According to the news stories, what do respondents prefer?*

The "ideal deputy" would be male, Ukrainian-speaking, with an income similar to the population so that he can better understand citizens' needs. He should be party-affiliated, not independent, and part of the opposition. He should have business or legal experience, but not be involved with business. The deputy should advocate gradual rather than radical reforms, strong social welfare protections, stability even at the cost of civil liberties, closer relations with Russia rather than Europe, no change to natural gas prices even at the cost of energy dependence, and Ukrainian as the only state language.

If we looked at preferences by region, some of the expectations of the "East vs. West" divisions would likely emerge. That is, I would expect respondents in L'viv or Donetsk to paint a more consistent portrait of their preferred MP regarding national identity, language, and international orientation. But, the survey suggests that cleavages in society may not consistently divide citizens across starkly defined economic, cultural, linguistic, and partisan domains. Politicians who combine the "multi-vector" approach to foreign policy, a preference for a distinct Ukrainian national identity, and are perceived to be less corrupt and distant from citizens could find a successful niche in electoral politics.

*Presumably, the plurality responses on questions constitute "what Ukrainians want" in the context of the news stories, but the reports are not clear on this matter.

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