Ukraine’s Democratic Backslide and its Implications for relations with Russia and the West

The paper provides a brief overview and analysis of Ukraine’s October 2012 Parliamentary (Verkhovna Rada) election, within the context of earlier political developments in Ukraine. The author describes Ukraine’s slide towards authoritarianism in recent years, which has included increased corruption and a crackdown on civil society, free media, the opposition, and the judiciary. The paper explains how this affected the pre-election period and the conduct of the election, and also discusses how President Victor Yanukovych’s ruling Party of Regions (PRU) attempted to gain advantages through revising electoral law and the electoral system. The author also describes how Yanukovych moved Ukraine closer to Russia despite his stated “multi-vector” approach to foreign policy. She argues that the Rada election pushed Ukraine further down the authoritarian path. This is a dangerous trend and it is now more important than ever that the West maintains its involvement with Ukraine and uses its leverage to push for democratic reforms. The West should not be afraid that criticism will push Ukraine further into the Russian sphere because ultimately, that is not what Ukrainian leadership wants. Ukraine remains important for the West. Doing nothing is a decision in and of itself.

Authors: Anna Borshchevskaya