Analyzing Ukrainian Elections, Part 2

 This is the second part of two posts analyzing Ukrainian elections. This second part will focus upon many factors that lead to Ukraine’s exceptional regional polarization. The first part can be found here.

(Note: I strongly encourage you to click the image links on this post when reading; they're essential to understanding what I'm saying.)

Two Ukraines

Modern Ukraine is a strange hybrid of two quite different regions. One part, composed of western and central Ukraine, is politically more aligned with the West; it favors, for instance, joining the European Union. This part includes the capital Kiev. The other part of Ukraine, consisting of the Black Sea coast and eastern Ukraine, remains more loyal to Russia and the memory of the Soviet Union. It includes Donetsk Oblast (formerly named Stalino Oblast), the most populous province in the country.

This division is reflected in Ukrainian politics. Take the 2004 presidential election, in which pro-Western candidate Viktor Yushchenko faced off against pro-Russian candidate Viktor Yanukovych:

Link to Map of 2004 Ukrainian Presidential Election, Round 3; Image Courtesy of ElectoralGeography

Few things better illustrate the boundary between east and west Ukraine than this election, which Mr. Yushchenko ended up winning by a seven-point margin.

These divisions have long-standing roots. During the 16th and 17th centuries, for instance, much of Ukraine was under the control of the Poland-Lithuania. This country, which at one point constituted the largest nation in Europe, declined in the 18th century and was eventually partitioned by its stronger neighbors Prussia, Russia, and Austria.

Here is a map of Poland-Lithuania at its peak:

Link to Map of Poland-Lithuania

As the map makes clear, there is a strong correlation between the parts of Ukraine once controlled by Poland-Lithuania and the parts of Ukraine that today vote for pro-Westerners such as Mr. Yushchenko. Although Poland-Lithuania is long gone, the vestiges of Polish influence still exist in these places, drawing western and central Ukraine closer to the West than eastern Ukraine and the Black Sea region.

These two parts of Ukraine differ in another, even more important aspect: language. Take a look at the most Russian-speaking regions of Ukraine:

Link to Map of Linguistic Division in Ukraine

The correlation between the percentage of Russian speakers and the vote for pro-Russian candidate Viktor Yanukovych is even stronger here. The three provinces with more than 60% of Russian-speakers gave Mr. Yanukovych’s his strongest support; Mr. Yanukovych managed to gain greater than 80% of the vote in each of them, despite losing the overall vote by 7%.

Language was a matter directly related to the Soviet Union. While on paper all languages were equal in the Soviet Union, in reality there was little question that speaking Russian was necessary to succeed. Today the situation is the opposite; the government encourages individuals to speak Ukrainian, although many in the country use Russian.

Ironically, Mr. Yanukovych himself is a native-born Russian-speaker. According to the Kiev Post, his Ukrainian remains imperfect to this day. The current president is reported to desire adding Russian to Ukraine’s list of official languages (which at the moment includes solely Ukrainian). This would be quite controversial if actually done.

Ukraine’s Future

Polarization is a disturbing phenomenon for any country. In Ukraine’s 2004 presidential election, all but one province gave more than 60% of the vote to a single candidate. This is the type of political division that sometimes leads to civil war, such as which occurred in Yugoslavia. That is one possible path for Ukraine to follow, unlikely as it may seem at the moment.

Yet polarization of this sort does not necessarily lead to separation. In the 2010 presidential election, polarization declined slightly; as memories fade, this trend may continue. And fortunately for Ukraine, the East-West division does not extend to ethnicity; Russian-speakers and Ukrainian-speakers may have a different language, but they look the same. It is a sad comment on the human condition that this makes a break-up of Ukraine less likely.

Moreover, a number of other countries contain similar electoral divisions without splitting up. Former East Germany votes quite differently from former West Germany (especially with regards to the Left Party, the ex-communist party), but Germany certainly will not break-up into pieces anytime soon. After the Civil War, the South unanimously supported one party for decades – parts of it still do, if one excludes blacks – but the idea of another national schism is unthinkable today. If things go well for Ukraine, the electoral divide in its voting patterns may remain nothing more than that.

--Inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/

 

Analyzing Ukrainian Elections, Part 2

 This is the second part of two posts analyzing Ukrainian elections. This second part will focus upon many factors that lead to Ukraine’s exceptional regional polarization. The first part can be found here.

(Note: I strongly encourage you to click the image links on this post when reading; they're essential to understanding what I'm saying.)

Two Ukraines

Modern Ukraine is a strange hybrid of two quite different regions. One part, composed of western and central Ukraine, is politically more aligned with the West; it favors, for instance, joining the European Union. This part includes the capital Kiev. The other part of Ukraine, consisting of the Black Sea coast and eastern Ukraine, remains more loyal to Russia and the memory of the Soviet Union. It includes Donetsk Oblast (formerly named Stalino Oblast), the most populous province in the country.

This division is reflected in Ukrainian politics. Take the 2004 presidential election, in which pro-Western candidate Viktor Yushchenko faced off against pro-Russian candidate Viktor Yanukovych:

Link to Map of 2004 Ukrainian Presidential Election, Round 3; Image Courtesy of ElectoralGeography

Few things better illustrate the boundary between east and west Ukraine than this election, which Mr. Yushchenko ended up winning by a seven-point margin.

These divisions have long-standing roots. During the 16th and 17th centuries, for instance, much of Ukraine was under the control of the Poland-Lithuania. This country, which at one point constituted the largest nation in Europe, declined in the 18th century and was eventually partitioned by its stronger neighbors Prussia, Russia, and Austria.

Here is a map of Poland-Lithuania at its peak:

Link to Map of Poland-Lithuania

As the map makes clear, there is a strong correlation between the parts of Ukraine once controlled by Poland-Lithuania and the parts of Ukraine that today vote for pro-Westerners such as Mr. Yushchenko. Although Poland-Lithuania is long gone, the vestiges of Polish influence still exist in these places, drawing western and central Ukraine closer to the West than eastern Ukraine and the Black Sea region.

These two parts of Ukraine differ in another, even more important aspect: language. Take a look at the most Russian-speaking regions of Ukraine:

Link to Map of Linguistic Division in Ukraine

The correlation between the percentage of Russian speakers and the vote for pro-Russian candidate Viktor Yanukovych is even stronger here. The three provinces with more than 60% of Russian-speakers gave Mr. Yanukovych’s his strongest support; Mr. Yanukovych managed to gain greater than 80% of the vote in each of them, despite losing the overall vote by 7%.

Language was a matter directly related to the Soviet Union. While on paper all languages were equal in the Soviet Union, in reality there was little question that speaking Russian was necessary to succeed. Today the situation is the opposite; the government encourages individuals to speak Ukrainian, although many in the country use Russian.

Ironically, Mr. Yanukovych himself is a native-born Russian-speaker. According to the Kiev Post, his Ukrainian remains imperfect to this day. The current president is reported to desire adding Russian to Ukraine’s list of official languages (which at the moment includes solely Ukrainian). This would be quite controversial if actually done.

Ukraine’s Future

Polarization is a disturbing phenomenon for any country. In Ukraine’s 2004 presidential election, all but one province gave more than 60% of the vote to a single candidate. This is the type of political division that sometimes leads to civil war, such as which occurred in Yugoslavia. That is one possible path for Ukraine to follow, unlikely as it may seem at the moment.

Yet polarization of this sort does not necessarily lead to separation. In the 2010 presidential election, polarization declined slightly; as memories fade, this trend may continue. And fortunately for Ukraine, the East-West division does not extend to ethnicity; Russian-speakers and Ukrainian-speakers may have a different language, but they look the same. It is a sad comment on the human condition that this makes a break-up of Ukraine less likely.

Moreover, a number of other countries contain similar electoral divisions without splitting up. Former East Germany votes quite differently from former West Germany (especially with regards to the Left Party, the ex-communist party), but Germany certainly will not break-up into pieces anytime soon. After the Civil War, the South unanimously supported one party for decades – parts of it still do, if one excludes blacks – but the idea of another national schism is unthinkable today. If things go well for Ukraine, the electoral divide in its voting patterns may remain nothing more than that.

--Inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/

 

Analyzing Ukrainian Elections, Part 1

This is the first part of two posts analyzing Ukrainian elections. This first part will focus upon the 2004 presidential election, which showed a remarkable degree of regional polarization. The second part can be found here.

(Note: I strongly encourage you to click the image links on this post when reading; they're essential to understanding what I'm saying.)

The 2004 Presidential Election, Version Ukraine

In the last months of 2004, Ukraine held a total of three elections. In the first round, candidates Viktor Yanukovych and Viktor Yushchenko received the greatest share of votes. The two then competed in what turned out to be a rigged run-off, with Mr. Yanukovych supposedly winning. After prolonged protests, cumulating in the Orange Revolution, another run-off was held. Pro-western candidate Viktor Yushchenko ended up as the victor of this fair run-off, beginning what would prove to be a troubled presidential term.

This post will analyze the third, and possibly the only unrigged, election. Here is a map of the results:

Link to Map of 2004 Ukrainian Presidential Election, Round 3; Image Courtesy of ElectoralGeography

(Note: This map is taken from the site ElectoralGeography. It’s analysis of the 2004 Ukrainian election can be found here.)

In this third round, Mr. Yushchenko ended up with 51.2% of the vote, compared to the 44.2% support earned by his opponent (the rest voted “informal” or “against all”).

The first thing one notices is the overwhelming degree of polarization. It is almost as if Ukraine is two separate nations happening to inhabit the same name. In the western and central Ukraine, Mr. Yushchenko is a rock star; he wins greater than 60% of the vote in every single province. But in eastern Ukraine and the Black Sea coast, Mr. Yushchenko is deeply, deeply unpopular – winning less than 40% of the vote in all but one province.

Indeed, there does not seem to be much of a middle ground. Mr. Yushchenko either wins by a landslide, or he loses by a landslide. He either gets more than 60% of the vote or less than 40%. This analysis still holds true as one looks at the results at a more detailed level:

Link to Detailed Map of 2004 Ukrainian Presidential Election, Round 3

The regional borders constitute an almost perfect dividing line between Yushchenko-land and Yanukovych-land. There is some lessening in polarization as one approaches the “border,” but not much. One often goes straight from 60+% Yushchenko support to 60+% Yanukovych support.

This phenomenon was not just unique to the 2004. In election after election, Ukraine is divided into two camps: the northwest votes pro-West; the southeast votes pro-Russian.

Here is the 2010 presidential election:

Link to Map of 2010 Ukrainian Presidential Election

This map indicates Mr. Yanukovych’s support in the 2010 presidential election, by province. This time he won – in a fair election – claiming 49.0% of the vote to the 45.5% polled by his opponent Yulia Tymoshenko. Compared to 2004, polarization has gone slightly down; this time only four provinces gave more than 90% of the vote to one candidate, instead of six.

Or take the 2007 parliamentary elections:

Link to Map of 2007 Ukrainian Parliamentary Elections

Guess which part of Ukraine voted for Mr. Yanukovych’s party.

This type of regional polarization did not occur by chance or luck. Rather, Ukraine’s electoral divide has long-standing historical and linguistic roots. Modern Ukraine itself contains two almost separate identities, which elections simply happen to reflect. The next section will analyze how differences came into being.

 

 

French Elections, First Round Thread

Exit polls for the first round of the French elections will be released in a little more than an hour. Here are the simple mean of the fifteen polls conducted during the past week:

Sarkozy (Conservative): 28.4%
Royal (Socialist): 24.6%
Bayrou (Centrist): 18.3%
Le Pen (Fascist): 13.8%
Other / Unsure: 14.9%

The top two advance to the second round, which will take place in a couple of weeks. It is the same system that we have for federal elections in Texas, and for all elections in Louisiana. It is a system that I wish we had in Philadelphia, where our next mayor will be decided by whoever wins 30% in the Democratic primary.

Back in 1995, during my junior year abroad in England, I followed the French elections quite closely. I was rotting for Jospin who, after surprisingly winning the first round, ended up narrowly losing to Chirac a couple of weeks later. I have no particular horse in this race, and have no been following it quite as closely this time around. Royal's campaigns against violence on television, combined with her foreign policy weirdness, combine with the fact that I am not on the "far left" anymore to make the socialist party no longer a reflexive choice. At the same time, Bayrou seems to be a triangulating, anti-left wing politician of the sort I regularly attack within the Democratic Party. I mean, check out this quote from Bayrou in the New York Times:
"I am a democrat, I am a Clintonian, I am a man of the 'third way.'"
So, let's just say that I am not exactly sold on either Bayrou or Royal. I would prefer if the second round were Bayrou vs. Royal, but polling does not make that outcome seem like a reasonable possibility. I'll probably just end up rooting for whichever one of those two makes it to the second round against Sarkozy. Of course, if Le Pen sneaks into the second round again, ala 2002, then obviously I will pull for Sarkozy.

Anyway, this is an open thread on the French elections. I'll post exit polls and results when they are available.

Update: Via commenter island empire, current, but incomplete, exit polls from Ipsos show Sarkozy and Royal headed to a run-off:

Sarkozy: 29.4%
Royal: 26.2%
Bayrou: 18.6%
Le Pen: 10.8%

No real surprise. It certainly looks like Royal vs. Sarkozy in the second round. Current polls on that matchup show the race anywhere from a dead-heat to Sarkozy ahead by 7. Funny how Bayrou, who polled very well in the second round (comfortably ahead of everyone), doesn't have enough hard-core supporters to even make the second round. Ah, the shortcoming of neo-liberal politicians everywhere: comfortable, compromise choices that no one really likes. Also, the 86% turnout is stunning--higher than any other large democracy.

Update 2: Final exit polls:

Sarkozy: 30.0%
Royal: 25.2%
Bayrou: 18.3%
Le Pen: 11.5%
Eight others: 14.0%

So, unless something truly shocking happens, it will be Sarkozy vs. Royal in the second round. Sarkozy will start as the slight favorite.

Final update: More great info from commenter island empire. Based on all four major exit polls, the French media seems to have all but declared it Sarkozy vs. Royal in the second round (see Le Monde, Le Figaro, and Liberation). The big story seems to be the huge turnout.

As a side note, I am surprised at how easily I find it to read articles about polls and election results in French. I have never taken a single French class in my life, but I think there might be something bordering on a universal political horserace language. I mean, I actually understand these articles (or, at least, I think I understand them).

Conservative Corruption: Israeli Edition

Thought that corruption on the Right was limited to Americans like Tom DeLay, Bob Taft, Conrad Burns, Curt Weldon, Ernie Fletcher, Charles Taylor, Bob Ney, Jack Abramoff, Bill Frist, Tom Noe, Rick Santorum, David Safavian, John Doolittle, Ralph Reed, Richard Pombo, Jerry Lewis and Denny Hastert? Think again. According to Rebecca Anna Stoil of The Jerusalem Post, Israel's star of the Right, Bibi Netanyahu, is involved in an ethics investigation that could finally spell an end to his reactionary political career.

Opposition leader MK Binyamin Netanyahu (Likud) was questioned for hours by the National Fraud Squad Tuesday afternoon under suspicion of accepting gifts illegally, as his political rivals kept their eyes on the investigation of a man who sought to portray his party as the alternative to corrupt politics.

Tuesday's questioning was part of an ongoing National Fraud Squad investigation into Yisrael Katz, the former chairman of the Pedagogic Secretariat at the Education Ministry, who has been accused of using government funds to support his private research institute which he ran while he worked for the ministry.

For a number of months, detectives have been probing allegations that Katz committed both fraud and violation of trust in diverting Education Ministry funds to carrying out political opinion polls at the Institute for Education and Community Research at Bar Ilan University.

In this case, Netanyahu is suspected of receiving opinion polls conducted for him by Katz without compensating Katz for the service. Only after a Channel 10 report revealed in late 2005 that Netanyahu had been receiving the polling data, he paid the bill - tens of thousands of shekels - to Katz. It remains unclear if Netanyahu knew that the studies were allegedly financed through the government funds.

With Israel seemingly entering a new phase of engagement with the Palestinians, the center-right/center-left coalition headed by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and his Kadima Party is in a particularly tenuous situation. Opinion in the country after the conflict with Hizbollah is trending more hawkish rather than less, and a recently-released Angus-Reid poll indicates that a right wing Likud Party headed by Netanyahu (who has been toning up the rhetoric when it comes to Iran) would win a rather sizable mandate from voters, garnering an estimated 29 seats, followed by Kadima (center-right) at 18 seats, Yisrael Beiteinu (far right) at 14 seats, Labor (center-left) at 12 seats and Shas (ultra-orthodox Sephardic Jews) at 10 seats. In short, Israelis are significantly more conservative in their outlook today than perhaps they have ever been.

But a major corruption scandal focused on Likud, which has prided itself as the clean government alternative for Israelis, could seriously undermine the Party's abilities to triumph in any upcoming election -- particularly if it is their standard-bearer, Benjamin Netanyahu, who the focus of investigators.

Now corruption is not a new issue to Israelis. They have certainly seen their share of scandals before and have, in the past, been willing to overlook similar scandals as broader issues of security come to the fore. That said, if the Netanyahu probe continues and the deescalation proves to hold (with Israel not reentering Gaza and the Palestinians not continuing to fire rockets into Israel), thus helping to refocus the electorate on Kadima's agenda of bringing more stability through withdrawal from Palestinian territories, Olmert might be able to recapture his support among voters and stave off any challenge from the right.

Yes, there are a lot of "ifs" there. But things move very quickly in the region and Israeli voters are more than willing to change their alliances with the coming of new successes or failures. So while Netanyahu and the Israeli Right appear ascendent today, there is yet a very good chance that a coalition of the middle will be able to retain power in the coming months and years and at least try to move the situation between Israel and the Palestinians forward.

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