Short for UP by Abbreviationfinder, Ukraine is a republic with semi-presidential rule. This means that both the President and the Prime Minister participate in daily government work but with different roles. The government is responsible to Parliament. The most difficult obstacles to building a modern rule of law have been the deep corruption and the influence of politicians on the judiciary.
The division of power between the president and parliament has been the subject of prolonged disputes. The first independent constitution of Ukraine, adopted in 1996, was intended to end the disputes by giving the President great powers. But the fight went on. Fundamental changes that came about after the orange revolution in 2004 (see Modern History) and entered into force in 2006, Parliament’s influence increased at the expense of the President. The changes were difficult to interpret and quickly reinforced the power struggle. In 2010, the Constitutional Court ruled that this shift of power was in violation of the Constitution, and the presidential office regained lost power. But this ruling in itself was strongly challenged, and the Venice Commission (Council of Europe’s expert committee on constitutional affairs) objected in a report shortly thereafter to the legally questionable that the Constitutional Court rejected constitutional amendments after six years. The Venice Commission wrote that the Court acted as if it were over the Constitution and that its intervention raised questions about how it was governed by the rule of law in Ukraine. Among other things, four judges must have resigned after strong pressure from the government just before the Constitutional Court’s decision.
- Countryaah: Total population and chart of Ukraine for years of 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023 and 2024. Also covers population density, birth rate, death rate and population growth rates.
In February 2014, Parliament voted to restore the constitutional amendments adopted in 2004. Former President Viktor Yanukovych refused to sign the new law but fled from office on the same day. He was formally deposited the following day.
The Western-friendly policies that have been implemented since then have also been incorporated into the constitution. Membership in both the EU and NATO as political targets was entered into the Constitution 2019 (see Calendar).
The president is head of state and commander-in-chief and is elected by universal suffrage every five years. A president can only sit for two terms in a row. The President signs laws and announces elections and referendums on constitutional issues. The head of state nominates the prime minister, defense minister and foreign minister on a proposal by parliament’s majority. Other Ministers are appointed by Parliament on a proposal from the Prime Minister. The President may, in certain circumstances, dissolve Parliament, for example if a government could not be formed within the prescribed time.
Parliament – the Supreme Council or the Verkhovna Rada – consists of 450 members who are also elected for five years. After a legislative change in 2011, 225 of them were elected according to a proportional system based on party lists, and the other 225 in direct elections in one-man election circles. At the same time, party alliances were banned from running for election and the threshold for a party to take office in parliament was raised from 3 to 5 percent of the vote. Prior to the 2014 elections, the ban on alliances was abolished, but the 5 percent barrier was retained.
Mandates that would have been filled in direct elections in rebel-controlled areas in the southeast and on the Russian-annexed peninsula of Crimea were left vacant in 2014. Since the 2019 elections, 26 seats have been vacant.
A new electoral law passed in 2019 means that the next election, scheduled for 2023, will be proportionate. The five percent barrier remains. Prior to the Ukraine-EU Association Agreement ratified in 2014, the election system was an important issue. The system has been deemed to need reform, partly because there has been a vote for voting and enabled some directly doubtful people to run for office in Parliament (which gives freedom of speech).
Parliament establishes the laws of the country and adopts the state budget. The president can veto a law, but Parliament can vote down a two-thirds majority. Parliament is able to cast a president, but it requires a three-quarters majority.
Ukraine has been divided into 27 regions: 24 counties (oblast), the two metropolitan areas of Kiev and Sevastopol with special status, and Crimea which is an autonomous republic. Following Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, the peninsula with the city of Sevastopol is in practice not included in Ukraine, although the annexation is not recognized by the Ukrainian government or the outside world. In fact, parts of eastern Ukraine are in practice beyond government control.
In 2020, a proposal for a new regional subdivision was presented by the Ministry of Local Government and Development. The goal is for the districts within the counties to be considerably smaller, not least to reduce the local bureaucracy. The province of Zakarpattia in the southwest has given rise to a quarrel with Hungary, as ethnic Hungarians are in the majority in part of the area. Hungary has raised the issue of their position, inter alia by conditional on EU and NATO cooperation with Ukraine. According to the proposal, Berehove, in Hungarian Beregszász, will constitute its own district, which would allow some kind of autonomy for the local Hungarians. The proposal may face opposition from Ukrainian nationalists.
The Crimean peninsula was populated by Muslim Tatars from the 13th century and ended up under Russian rule in 1783. After the formation of the Soviet Union in 1922, Crimea was part of the Russian Soviet Republic until 1954 when the peninsula was transferred to the Soviet Republic of Ukraine. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, Crimea remained part of Ukraine.
In the years before independence, Crimean Tatars had begun to return home from Central Asia where they were forced into exile during World War II by the then Soviet leader Josef Stalin, who accused them of cooperating with the Nazis. The return of the Crimean Tatars led to contradictions with the rest of the population of Crimea, which mainly consisted of Russians.
Following the dramatic shift in power in Ukraine in early 2014, when the Russian-friendly President Viktor Yanukovych was deposed in a popular uprising, Russia took military control of Crimea. In March 2014, after an illegal referendum on the peninsula, Crimea was annexed by Russia (read more in Current Politics and Calendar, respectively).
The Ukrainian party landscape is not so much characterized by ideology and programs, but more by strong leadership personalities as well as regional and business special interests. Common to most leading parties today is a strong focus on bringing Ukraine closer to the EU and the Western world.
Parliamentary elections were held in October 2014, nine months after the referendum that led to the resignation of President Yanukovych and four months after Petro Poroshenko was elected as his successor.
By far the biggest was Petro Poroshenko’s Blok (Blok Petra Poroshenko), which was later nicknamed Solidarity (Solidarnist). The party had existed since 2000 and formed part of various alliances with liberal and EU-friendly profiles. Poroshenko’s block went to election in collaboration with the Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reform (Ukrajinskyj Democratnyjnyj aljans za reformy, Udar ; freely translated roughly “Smock”), started by former boxing world champion Vitalij Klychko. In August 2015, Udar was formally in Poroshenko’s block and Klytjko was elected party leader.
The second largest in the 2014 election was the conservative, EU-friendly People’s Front (Narodnyj Front), founded by then-Prime Minister Arsenij Jatsenjuk and Acting President Oleksandr Turtjynov shortly after the revolution. Many of the members, including the two founders, had previously belonged to the Fatherland (Batkivshchyna) led by former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko.
Petro Poroshenko’s block and the People’s Front formed a stable government on paper where several party-bound subject experts also received ministerial posts. The coalition burst in conjunction with the new President Volodymyr Zelenskyj’s entry in May 2019.
Elected to Parliament after passing femprocentsspärren also became the new Christian Democratic and pro-Western party Self-reliance (Samopomitj), formed in 2012 by the city of Lviv Mayor Andriy Sadovyj, the Eurosceptic opposition bloc (Oppozytsijnyj Blok), right-wing populist Oleh Ljasjkos Radical Party (Radykalna partija Oleha Lezhka) and Julia Tymoshenko’s former ruling party of the Motherland.
The far-right Freedom Party (Svoboda), which had great successes in the 2012 election, missed the lock for the party lists in 2014 but got six members through direct elections. In contrast, the Communist Party was knocked out of Parliament. The previously ruling Party of Regions boycotted the election, but some of its representatives had switched to the opposition bloc.
A total of 30 national parties voted in the 2014 elections. More than half got less than one percent of the vote, but a few of them managed to get a representative in Parliament through direct elections. In addition, almost 100 partisan candidates were elected.
The election year 2019 saw several changes. The most important:
The new President Volodymyr Zelenskyj formed a party called the People’s Servant (Sluha Narodu) as the TV series that made him famous. The party was registered as late as the presidential election on March 31, 2019. It then quickly took the lead in opinion polls ahead of the next parliamentary election, and won by far.
After the loss in the presidential election, Poroshenko’s party changed its name to European solidarity, but the party shrank considerably.
Disagreement within the Opposition Bloc led to a new formation aimed at the 2019 elections, the Prorussian Opposition Platform – For Life (Opozitsijna Platforma – Za Zjyttja). The party became second largest in the parliamentary elections.
New fragile government cooperation
Tymoshenko succeeds in crafting a new government coalition with supporters of Yushchenko and representatives of the Lytvyn Bloc.
The government is cracking down
Our Ukraine jumps out of government cooperation.
Tymoshenko back in power
Julia Tymoshenko forms a new government together with Our Ukraine.
New choice with unclear result
New elections are held. The region’s party will be the largest with 34.4 percent of the vote, Julia Tymoshenko’s block will get 30.7 percent and President Yushchenko’s Our Ukraine 14.2 percent. Two more parties will be seated in Parliament: the Communist Party, which receives 5.4 percent, and the Volodymyr Lytvyn’s newly formed party, the Lytvyn Bloc, which receives 3.9 percent.