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.

 

 

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, like that illustrated in the humorous picture above, 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/

 

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