Thursday, January 10, 2013

Legislative Behavior and Accountability in Ukraine

Pending the results of by-elections that still must be scheduled, Ukraine's Central Electoral Commission announced final parliamentary tallies and seated deputies a few weeks ago. The vote and seat totals differ a bit from my last post, as official results changed at certification. The final iteration of my election report will be published in Electoral Studies, and will note the following:

The first session of the new Rada has been active, with strong rhetoric and even fistfights. The composition of the Rada, especially the corps of opposition parties and politicians, will provide fodder for future discussion. Procedural matters, however, have emerged as an intriguing subject for early debate.

Ukraine's parliament uses an electronic voting system and deputies record a staggering number of roll call votes each session. Along with colleagues, I have collected and assessed the roll call data to better understand how institutional rules affect behavior (Legislative Studies Quarterly 2002) and also how election rule change occurred (Journal of Communist Studies and Transition Politics 2007). Especially during the last convocation, however, the viability of roll call analysis came into question as increasingly deputies did not record their own votes, but rather had proxies vote. Civil society and the opposition raised this issue in the new convocation and officials promised to stop "кнопкодавство," or the practice of recording votes with others' cards. The enforcement of anti-кнопкодавство practices has not yet been institutionalized, but it raises the critical issue of accountability.

My colleague Nazar Boyko ( and I have a forthcoming article in Party Politics that addresses the development of institutional mechanisms of accountability in Ukraine. We focus on the use of deputy requests, also labeled parliamentary questions or interpellations.* In the article, we note that partisanship is the strongest predictor for the use of oversight tools: prior to the Orange Revolution, the opposition was far more likely to issue requests. After the change in executive power, the former ruling group increased its use of these tools, but the former opposition maintained a strong practice of issuing requests. Within the opposition, however, the leading party group at the time (Our Ukraine) comprised a smaller proportion of request activity than other members of the opposition after Viktor Yushchenko gained the presidency. Institutional responsiveness prior to the Orange Revolution suggested that the regime answered questions from the opposition more slowly than those emanating from pro-regime deputies. After the change in executive power, however, the "new" ruling group did not punish the "new" opposition as response times were essentially indistinguishable. In short, this accountability tool was used as a partisan weapon, but the way it was used varied under different executives.

The article will be published in the coming months, but the data and an online appendix are available below. I will send the pre-publication version of the paper to anyone who requests it.

Data for individual-level analysis of requests.
Data for analysis of responsiveness.
Online Appendix.

*Interpellations differ a bit from questions, and Yamamoto's IPU publication covers the distinction well.