April 28, 2007


Ukraine is Drifting to the West - Slowly but Surely (Oleksandr Shepotylo, The Ukranian Observer)

Democracy works efficiently when there is a wide consensus over the ideological values across different groups of population. When the population is ideologically united and determined to protect their economic and political rights, the ruling elites are forced to sign a mutual pact even if they have serious conflicts of interest. The elites have limited opportunities to manipulate public opinion and prefer to follow the rules and agreements that mark the boundaries of their political powers specified in the pact.

The Glorious Revolution in England in 1688 was an illustration of Weingast's ideas. In the aftermath of the revolution, the Bill of Rights had been signed in 1689. The document declared the separation of powers between the Crown and the Parliament and outlined the basic rights of the citizens that could not be violated by anyone, including the King and other influential individuals. The Bill of Rights proved to be very successful and laid down the basis of the unwritten British Constitution because it was accepted not only by elites but also by the citizens.

On the other hand, a democratic country may be trapped into political disputes and economic stagnation if a broad consensus of citizens has not been reached. In these circumstances, any political agreement among elites is unstable and frequently violated.

The problem of finding common ideological ground becomes more severe when a country is sharply divided in religious, ethnic, or cultural dimensions. In his study, Weingast pointed out directly that countries with culturally or ethnically diverse population have major difficulties in finding social consensus and implementing efficient economic policies.
The Universal of National Unity signed in August of 2006 by the President and by four political parties represented in the Verkhovna Rada in Ukraine was meant to unite the nation and elites over some basic principles. However, as we all observed, the Universal proved to be extremely ineffective in reaching its declared goals.

The Universal was not reached as the consensus across various groups of the whole population but was worked out as a partial compromise of political elites. Therefore, the Party of Regions felt comfortable to violate the Universal because it was not obliged to follow the principles declared by the party's supporters.

The Ukrainian example is not unique. The most culturally and ethnically diverse countries are located in Africa according to a study conducted by Alberto Alesina, a highly regarded Harvard University economist. Therefore, it is not surprising that African countries have major difficulties in forming stable governments and experience frequent military coups. [...]

Regression analysis of the last parliamentary elections shows that the choice of voters was primarily driven by ideological and cultural differences. The share of Ukrainian and Russian speaking population at the oblast level - an indicator of cultural differences -explains about 86 percent of all variations in the share of voters who voted for the "Party of Regions".

Likewise, this explains 74 percent of the cross oblast differences in voting patterns of the Block of Yulia Tymoshenko (BYT) supporters. [...]

The ideal solution would by to put aside our differences and concentrate on common economic interests. If our politicians accepted the current division of power and started working on reforming the tax system, legal system, social security, education and medicine we would all benefit, regardless of the language we speak. Unfortunately, our political leaders will not leave well-enough alone and try as hard as they can to exploit our differences in their political games. They have done it many times before and I see no reason why they would be willing to stop these practices.

There is hope though. Speaking of the long term horizon, Ukraine is demographically drifting to the European Union. First of all, the population mass is literally moving to the west - Western regions of Ukraine and Kyiv outperforming Eastern regions in the demographic dynamics - due both to natural demographic changes and to migration processes. Secondly, the younger generations of Ukrainians are less likely to vote for parties with the socialist or communist ideologies, as the regression analysis showed. Both trends work in favor of the Europe-oriented liberal economic model of development and reduce ideological and cultural differences for the whole country.

...the principle of self-determination has acted as a solvent upon countries.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 28, 2007 8:28 PM

And the drift may explain much of Russia's late blustering about missile defense and an arms race. Their sphere of influence has shrunken and they cannot give up the thought that they are a great power.

Like France - but with fewer cheeses.

Posted by: Mikey [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 29, 2007 12:00 PM