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Consensus-Building and Good Governance

A Framework for Democratic Transition - Ukraine at the Crossroads. Ein Arbeitspapier von Olaf Hillenbrand.

Olaf Hillenbrand:
Consensus-Building and Good Governance - A Framework for Democratic Transition
München, 22.11.2004

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24.11.2004 · Bertelsmann Forschungsgruppe Politik

After ten years of transition, Ukraine is at the crossroads. The 2004 presidential elections may be seen as the key for the development of democracy. The key actors are not only two presidential candidates with quite different views about Ukraine's future, but also the former president including his administration, whose efforts to influence the elections have inherently damaged and endangered democratic development.

When Ukrainian transformation started in the early 1990s, the country had to face three challenges simultaneously: national consolidation, establishing democracy and building a market economy. Political actors saw themselves confronted with a difficult situation. They had to consolidate a fragmented and heterogeneous state. Independence was threatened by the Russian Federation as a dominant neighbor. A rather weak civil society and equally weak democratic traditions along with a very high degree of corruption hindered fast and sustainable political reforms. The special interests of economic groups were stronger than their interest in modernizing the country.

Whereas the initial phase of Ukraine's transformation was marked by the task of maintaining national unity and independence, political actors failed to create an effective and stable institutional framework. Various power struggles led to political and economic instability. As was somewhat typical for post-Soviet states, conflicts arose between the members of the administration, who styled themselves as backers of reform, and the Parliament, which was seen as an impediment to reform. (…) President Kuchma managed to put a stop to these negative trends during his second term of office. Together with Prime Ministers Yushchenko and Kinach, the president was able to establish a reform-oriented government. (…) Moderate growth and structural reform halted the economic downturn."

In a worldwide comparative perspective, Ukraine is among the more successful transformation states—compared with other European countries, however, it is among the less successful cases. But even if the last five years have shown considerable progress on reform politics in Ukraine and the political system has increasingly stabilized, the country still has a long way to go on the road to consolidated liberal democracy.

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