Thursday, May 30, 2013

The (Already Dead) Regional Reconfiguration Proposal in Ukraine

[UPDATE: As I was finalizing this post, President Yanukovych's office disowned the idea of regional reform, effectively killing it. However, it is still worth contemplating what these changes might have wrought.]

Politicians in Ukraine recently proposed consolidation of the existing 24 regions* into eight macro-regions and the Autonomous Republic of Crimea (for a total of nine regions). Scholars have debated the best way to think about Ukraine's regional divide for many years. The simplest method separates Ukraine into East and West along the Dniepr River, and is generally the implicit approach in the press, especially at election time. Observers have also developed more nuanced divisions, separating Crimea and/or subdividing East and West into East, West, and Central regions. The purpose of these regional definitions is to better understand the underlying features that help explain party and policy preferences.

In 2004, Lowell Barrington and I published an article in Nationalities Papers about regionalism in Ukraine. The purpose of our article was to stimulate discussion about regional variation and to propose an eight-region division based on our understanding of shared historical, cultural, economic, and other ties. We presented a rationale for each region, although the arguments were stronger for some areas than others (e.g., the historic and cultural ties in Galicia render its orientation as a macro-region stronger than the combination of, say, Zakarpattya and Chernivtsy). The map of our eight macro-regions is below.

While this division is certainly not definitive, the similarity of these regions to the recent boundary proposal prompted me to reflect on the potential consequences of territorial changes.

Comparing the two approaches, three regions remain intact: East (Luhansk and Donetsk), South (Kherson, Mykolayiv, and Odesa), and Crimea.** The North Central region is partially merged with the East Central, yielding a region with Sumy, Poltava, and Kharkiv. In the western part of the country, several differences between our eight macro-regions and the proposed divisions are evident. The region that we labeled Southwest, including Zakarpattya and Chernivtsy, would be merged with part of the West (L'viv and Ivano-Frankivsk). The remaining regions in the western section of the country would be divided north and south (where we kept them together).

The underlying motivation for our effort was an academic exercise to group like-regions together and better understand Ukraine's politics. However, the proposed regional divisions seem designed to strengthen President Viktor Yanukovych and the Party of Regions.

1) The regions that do not vary between the two maps are those that exhibited the strongest support for Yanukovych in the 2010 presidential election and the Party of Regions in local races. His area of strongest core support would constitute three of the nine regions.

2) Kharkiv, which was part of the East Central region in our scheme, is merged with parts of the North Central region. This division would couple an area of strong Yanukovych support and a major urban center with two regions that leaned to Tymoshenko (she garnered 54% of the vote in Poltava and 63% in Sumy). In our regional division, Kharkiv was linked to Dnipropetrivsk and Zaporizka, two other areas of robust Yanukovych support and another major urban center. Splitting off Kharkiv in this way would help the Yanukovych team dominate a fourth and fifth region.

3) In the western part of the country, the Galician region of L'viv, Ivano-Frankivsk, and Ternopil would be broken into two regions. This 3-oblast area is the heartland of a particular brand of Ukrainian national identity and has a long-standing connection. L'viv and Ivano-Frankivsk would be merged with Zakarpattya, an area that has been dominated by the oligarchic SDPU(o) in the past and the Baloha family in the present. It would also be joined with Chernivtsy that selected split local leadership (see the map below), with the Party of Regions gaining control of the regional council. While the area would likely retain its pro-opposition character, it would be tempered by the inclusion of regions with more tepid opposition support.

4) The remaining western regions would be divided into two, with the strongest areas of opposition support (Volyn and Ternopil) located in different regions. One could imagine that the opposition would still perform reasonably well in this area given the results for Tymoshenko in 2010 as well as the results of regional elections that yielded many pro-opposition city councils.

5) The center of the country that we named the North Central region was highly contested during the 2012 parliamentary election and is likely to retain this status in the near future. The delay of the mayoral and council votes in Kyiv until 2015 was likely calculated to undermine opposition success and (potential***) cooperation prior to the presidential election also slated for 2015.

Consolidating the regions would produce fewer patronage positions, but the positions would have access to more resources. If local elections were maintained for councils, the Party of Regions could extend its reach westward (notably in the macro-regions that would encompass Volyn and Ternopil).

The regional reconfiguration is unlikely to move forward (and if it were to move forward, it is unlikely to do so quickly) because many interests could be threatened by the re-design. However, the idea suggests that Ukrainian politicians continue to think about how to re-design institutions in their favor. 

Region
B&H
Proposed
Result 2010
% Vote
Donetsk
1
1
90.44
Luhansk
1
1
88.96
Dnipropetrivsk
2
2
62.7
Zaporizka
2
2
71.5
A.R. Crimea
3
3
78.24
Sevastopol
3
3
84.35
Kherson
4
4
59.98
Mykolayiv
4
4
71.53
Odesa
4
4
74.14
Cherkassy
5
5
65.37
Chernighiv
5
5
66.47
Kirovohrad
5
5
54.66
Kyiv
5
5
65.34
Kyiv Oblast
5
5
69.71
Kharkiv
2
6
71.35
Poltava
5
6
54.2
Sumy
5
6
62.89
Ternopil
6
7
88.39
Khmelnitsk
7
7
69.74
Vinnytsya
7
7
71.1
Ivano-Frankivsk
6
8
88.89
L'viv
6
8
86.2
Chervnivtsy
8
8
63.63
Zakarpatska
8
8
51.66
Rivne
7
9
76.24
Volyn
7
9
81.85
Zhytomyr
7
9
57.5


*Ukraine features 24 oblasts, two cities of special significance, and the Autonomous Republic of Crimea.
**Taking credit for getting Crimea right is cheating a bit since it has special status.
***Ukraine's opposition has proven ineffective at cooperation and consolidation in the past. While the current leaderships of the leading opposition parties promise to collaborate, healthy skepticism is generally the best position to take.

No comments:

Post a Comment