chapter  12
23 Pages

Parliamentary representation in post- communist Ukraine: change and stability

ByELENA SEMENOVA

Studies on democratization argue that successful changes of political systems were precipitated by the historical choices of political elites (Higley and Burton 2006).1 Furthermore, elite recruitment patterns and the existing institutional framework are two of the most important factors influencing political development (Seligman 1964; Best and Cotta 2000). The composition of elites reflects the power distribution in a given society (Putnam 1976: 166), while the structure of opportunities shapes the political behavior of parliamentarians, and the career paths of elites within political institutions. Ukraine attracted scholarly interest in democratization (Kubicek 1994; Flikke 2008) after the breakdown of Communist regimes. As in other post-Communist countries, Ukraine faced many transition processes simultaneously and structures of opportunity changed dramatically. The Soviet Ukraine with a single party and planned economy developed to the democratized Ukraine with multiparty and free-market systems. These processes were accompanied by the circulation of political elites that was caused not only by system changes but also by a power shift between minority and majority elites. In independent Ukraine, parliament has played an important role in politics by facilitating the legislative process and shaping democratization, and also by serving as the arena for fights between the legislative and executive over a constitutional shift of power. Parliaments represent existing power relations and preserve the privileged positions of power elites (Putnam 1976). Therefore, it is important to analyze parliamentary representation and careers in Ukraine, as this affords a better understanding of legislative politics and the social mobility system existing in the country. This chapter focuses on parliamentary representation that shows two types of relations: “on the one side, relations with society (the input side), on the other, the decision-making processes of democracy and their outcomes (the output side)” (Best and Cotta 2000: 9). The socio-demographic and political makeup of MPs can be viewed as the result of a complex recruitment process that involves selectorates, electorates, and candidates with their respective ambitions (Best and Cotta 2000: 9-10). This chapter examines two categories of parliamentarian characteristics: the first consists of previous political experience and affiliations (e.g., an association with the Soviet regime); the second consists of

socio-demographic characteristics, such as occupation, education, ethnicity, and gender. The data set for this chapter includes individual information on all members of the Ukrainian parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, from the parliamentary elections in 1990 through 2007. The information was gathered from official biographies and documents and addresses 1,768 members of the parliament (with substitutes).