One year on: Ukraine’s move to authoritarian rule under President Yanukovych


A majority of analysts surveyed by the Democratic Initiatives Foundation believe that in one year of Yanukovych’s presidency, the country has moved closer to dictatorship than in10 years under Leonid Kuchma.

The results of the survey were made public on Wednesday at a press conference by the Director of Democratic Initiatives, Iryna Bekeshkyna.

“We asked the experts to measure democracy according to a standard international scale (from 1 to 10) where 1 is a totally dictatorial regime. They assessed it at 4.75. This is almost the same level as in the last year of Leonid Kuchma’s presidency (4.6)”, Ms Bekeshkina stated.

“During the first year of Yanukovych’s presidency, we have not yet received that level but I’m afraid we’re heading there”.

She added that 47 of those surveyed had said that the main failing of Ukraine’s democracy was the disregard for laws and a Constitution that doesn’t work. “A vulnerable area of Ukraine’s democracy is the lack of rule of law and equality of all citizens before the law”, she said, citing the views of the respondents.

The Ukrainian judicial system was, she pointed out, dependent on the executive branch of power and on political interests, and was therefore excessively corrupt.

Other factors obstructing the development of democracy in Ukraine included the lack of balance in the system of power.  According to the experts, there is de facto no division of branches of power resulting in an “insane concentration of power with the President and, as a consequence, manual control of the country”. 

Another “vulnerable area of democracy” was seen as being a lack of real levers of influence on the authorities since the opposition, experts and ordinary citizens were removed from the process of drawing up and taking decisions at all levels of power.

According to Oleksiy Haran, Scientific Director of the School of Political Analysis, Yanukovych and his team treated as a carte blanche tthe advance of trust offered him at the beginning of his term in office by the European Union and USA.

“The advance of trust from Brussels and the USA given to Yanukovych at the start of his president was interpreted on Bankova St (the President’s Administration – translator) as lack of any bars, which was a mistake. Those assessments which the West and the USA are now giving Ukraine are correct since there are already no doubts in the world regarding what is happening in Ukraine”, he said.  He thinks that the current President views these assessments as being due to western politicians having been “bought” by the Ukrainian opposition, this being because he probably receives information from one source in those around him.

With regard to the reforms which Yanukovych’s team claims, Haran expressed the view that “in future there won’t, of course, be any reforms: populist steps will be taken, after all there are soon to be elections”.

The Democratic Initiatives Foundation named after Ilya Kucheryv carried out the survey from 28 January to 4 February, with 63 respondents.

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