Voter’s choice in Ukraine’s Presidential and Parliamentary Elections since 1994

Scientific Study, 2007
26 Pages, Grade: 1,0




Interest building - a „democratic class struggle“

The change of interests in post communist transformation countries
Socio- structural change in post- communist systems and impacts on party preferences

The first general elections in independent Ukraine- contradictory voter’s choice in 1994 presidental and parliamentary elections

Results and major cleavages
Presidential elections- a different choice

The parliamentary elections 1998- no convergence in the center and Kuchma’s second success in 1999 presidential elections
Reasons for the status quo

Parliamentary elections 2002- the emergence of the democratic center
Why voters moved to the center

Victory for the democratic opposition in the presidential race 2004
Choice for the democratic reformist transformation

The first truly free elections of Ukraine




The aim of this paper is to find out the major changes in interests of the Ukrainian society and how they determined party preferences. Therefore it will not only analyse parliamentary elections but also presidential elections. The presidential – parliamentary system of Ukraine (until 2005), with crucial powers of the president is determining presidential elections as important, even if parties itself play a less important role than candidates. Change of interests also can be visible by voting for one or another candidate at least for major cleavages in the society. Presidential elections also normally work for the consolidation of party competition (Harasymiw 2002).

The first part of this work will lay the theoretical ground for the analyses of voter preferences in Ukraine. It will deal with a generalization of interest building theory and a more closer view on transforming post-communist societies. Furthermore it will present two concepts which are important in explaining the interconnection between society and political interests. The first concept deals with class inequalities as base for class specific interest and voting behaviour. But this concept cannot give enough explanation for the case of Ukraine, due to its special political development in general and its different historical experience during Soviet times. Therefore I will present a second concept; the concept of cleavages. It is more genereal in describing the connections between specific interest and voter preferences and therefore more useful than the former concept.

In the second part of this paper I will analyse the parliamentary and presidential elections of Ukraine until 2006. Therefore I will describe important surroundings, present the results and analyse the major cleavages or interest groups.

Interest building - a „democratic class struggle“

After the breakdown of the Soviet Union many countries found themselves in phase of dramatic changes. For the most of them the end of USSR was the beginning of a democratic developement. Transformation processes were shaped by a “democratic class struggle”, a phenomenon which marks electoral behaviour by socio-economic structures. The term “democratic class struggle” implys the theoretical position of a conflict between two groups with different economic interests which will be solved at the ballot box. The economic interests of anybody, determinated by his or her social position, influence the electoral choice (Kohler 2002). In contrast to this structural approach a liberal one exists, which claims that economic interests and political aims mainly develop out of individual demands. Furthermore there is a variety of interests which can change. The articulation of these interests is always integrated in the political system (Wesolowski 1995).

A third approach, I want to mention, is in the tradition of Max Weber. It says that interests develop at two levels. On the one hand on an economical level and on the other hand on a cultural level. All three approaches leave out characteristics of the other but they all claim the importance to look at the dynamics of interests. They are not inheritent in the overall structures of society. They can be stimulated (ibid.).

This is more about an activistic approach which is more useful to apply if we look at the transformation processes and social restructuring in Eastern and Central Europe. Activity matters in two ways. Firstly, in the material necessities of life and secondly in the ideas about society (Wesolowski 1995).

In “democratic class struggle” interests of socio- structural groups are not a priori given. They are in a dynamic process of changing. This process is even more dynamic in a transforming society than in a consolidated democracy.

There are different assumptions how interests can be built. One of these assuptions is known as interaction approach which claim a coherence of the social being and political preferences. People with similar social characteristics have similar political views because they are in close contact to each other (Kohler 2002). The interest theory[1] says that voters will decide for the party which is more likely to fight for their interests and that these are similar to the political aims of their conflict group (ibid.). Therefore, there will be a party which follows specific political interests which are in accordance with several voters of the same socio structural group. Therefore we have to see conflict groups as groups which are divided by different socio- economic interests.[2]

The change of interests in post communist transformation countries

During communist times a privileged group tried to block all articulation of interests below the institutional level. Under this point of view a change of system will have positive effects if this change won’t end up in a fundamentalist ideological revolution (Wesolowski 1995).

Every systemic change stimulates specific processes. According to Wesolowski:

1) destruction of specific interests 2) fight for preservation of old interests 3) emergence of new interests. The transformation from a system with command economy and state property to a market economy with private ownership will lead to an articulation of new interests and as well to an assimilation of old one (ibid.). Privatization of big and medium size state owned enterprises and the sponteanous founding of private firms as well as the abolishment of social political regulations and economic rules are earmarks of this transformation.

These events can be described as socio- structural events, which could change socio- structural groups. For such socio- structural events there are the same consequences as for the members of various socio-structural groups. The move into another socio-structual group with a different attitude of interests, will lead to an assimilation of party preference of the new class. This assumption also says that changes of socio- structural groups (classes) will lead to changes in party preferences (Kohler 2002 : 224). But nothing starts suddenly. Every transformation is a complex process and therefore the transformation of interests is also a slowly and difficult process. The struggle for transfering interests into a new reality plays an important role as well as the elimination of interests of the former party dictatorship (Wesolowski 1995).

Socio- structural change in post- communist systems and impacts on party preferences

As it was shown above, the process of socio structural change will lead to a change of interests and to a fragmentation of interests within the society. These interests will be articulated in specific voter preferences and lead to the emergence of several political parties, which has a very important impact on the consolidation of democracy. Parties are important players in free elections and the construction of democratic institutions (Segert 1997).They are generally seen as crucial actors, because only a stable party system is an indicator of a democratic consolidation (von Beyme 1997/ Berglund et al.2004 ).

There exists several concepts how specific political interests are formed and translated into party choice.

Class inequalities as a base for class-specific political interests

The break down of the communist system was followed by the destruction of institutions of the former ‘civil society’.[3] The result was the disapperance of mechanism of articulatulation of interests even if political interests were relatively weak. There was a lack of unitary ideologies and roots for several social layers. Emergence of class related interests in post-communist countries is very weak, because of the absence of class formation made due to trying to eleminate the diversification of social distinction (Evans 1998). This ultimately resulted in the reduction of economic inequalities. Distinctions of wealth and incomes were substantialy lower in communist regimes than in any other societies (Lenski 1994). But on the other side of the medal political inequalities were much higher than in Western industrial societies and the change of moral attitudes expected by Marx did not occur at all (ibid.).

There was a fear of emerging new specific identities and solidarities next to the central ideoligical idea of society (Ferge 1997). Formal equality was always claimed but in reality never existed. The biggest inequalities existed between the nomenclatura and the rest of the people. Members of communist party enjoyed many privileges, which were kept back from the others (Ferge 1997/ Lenski 1994). Within the working class equality was also absent. There were better situated workers with better living conditions or better health treatment (Lenski 1994) and the formal structure of work did the rest against formal equality (Ferge 1997). In communist systems inequality was made by distribution of power, knowledge and labour but the formation of interests of specific groups was suppressed. The oppression can be seen as the reason for the strong anti- socialistic orientation of many post- communist societies and the liberal orientation of the intelligentsia after 1989. Therefore the greater focus on the intelligentsia interests and aims, was greater than on the ones of the working class (Evans 1998). The structural changes with the start of the transformation and the capitalization of the system led to socio-structural changes as well. Socio- structural events conducted to the segmentation of the society and that lead to the formation of different interests (ibid.). The amount of structuring variables also grew through the change to a private property organised system (Ferge 1997).

Evans claims that we can see a coherence between belonging to a class and political ideas. Material inequalities and future chances are the basis for class specific interests and class specific political preferences (Evans 1998). Different expectations about the future of various classes (layers/ cleavages) and differences among ressources and possibilities influence political interests. The conciousness about these differences and class- conciousness is therefore the foundation of formation of class-specific interests. At the beginning of transformation we can often see two polarised groups- one fighting for a fast liberalization and the other favouring a model of a strong social welfare state. Throughout ongoing differentiation of the social structure one can see an ongoing fragmentation of class specific interests (Evans 1998 / Slomczynski & Shabad 1997).

The concept of cleavages

Due to the specific system transformation in the case of Ukraine, the above described concept is not always appliable. In Ukraine we cannot find a continiuous transformation to democracy like in Poland or the Baltic states. We either see a hybrid regime emerging with a semi- authoritarian character. The transformation in general was harmstringed by this devolopment and socio-structural events might not have that strong influence as described above.

The concept of cleavages therefore is more precise in defining the link between consolidation and distinguishable and consistent voter preferences and the emergence of a stable party system (Berglund et al.2004). Cleavages matter because they strucuture the behaviour of voters and parties. They also determine the number of parties (ibid.). The cleavage concept is therefore crucial for studying parties, party systems and regime changes. In the same volume Deegan-Krause (2004) points out three different levels of cleavages, demographic, attitudinal and behavioural. Different social groups have different attitudes and behaviour and only an overlap on all three levels make a ‘full’ cleavage. These set them apart from other groups and so cleavages are qualified. In this sense we can name cleavages also as interest groups like described above. Differences in attitudes and behaviour can be caused by different socio economic or cultural factors. Furthermore Deegan-Krause (2004) is describing 3 divisions by overlapping means of cleavages described above. These divisions do not mean the formation of a new cleavage but a divide, and they point out several factors for the potential to become a ‘full’ cleavage with party expression. We can find salient cleavages without the latter, when demographic and attitudinal means overlap and the behavorial factor is missing (structural divide). Political cleavage is formed already by overlapping attitudinal and behavorial factors (issue divide).


[1] a theory from Rokkan and Lipset (1967) for the emergence of parties

[2] A third approach wont be discussed here. The identification approach covers long term indentification with political parties, which cannot be found in transforming post- communist societies, where party systems are still emerging or changing- especially in Ukraine.

[3] Civil society is one of the 5 areas of a consolidated democracy, made up by Linz & Stepan. “The first interacting arena is called civil society, where polity is made by self- organising groups and individuals which can relatively autonomous from the state and articulate values, create associations or solidarities to advance their interests.” (Linz & Stepan 1996 : 15) A strong civil society can help to start a transformation movement, to secure it and deepen a democracy. “Interests and values of a civil society are the major generators of political society” (ibid : 14).

Excerpt out of 26 pages


Voter’s choice in Ukraine’s Presidential and Parliamentary Elections since 1994
Vilnius University  (Vilnius University)
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Voter’s, Ukraine’s, Presidential, Parliamentary, Elections
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M.A. Nico Rausch (Author), 2007, Voter’s choice in Ukraine’s Presidential and Parliamentary Elections since 1994, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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