Democratic Accountability in Ukraine

September 19, 2012
James G. Jatras,
AIU deputy executive director

In anticipation of the October 2012 parliamentary vote, the American Institute in Ukraine resumes its analytical series reviewing the Yanukovich Administration’s performance measured against promises made upon taking office in 2010. We have selected three areas for review and grading:

  • I - Foreign policy
  • II - Economy
  • III - Social initiatives (Language)

Scale: 1 (lowest) to 5 (highest)

No.Main pointsGrade and Status of fulfillment /evaluation
I. FOREIGN POLICY

Grade: 5

This is perhaps President Yanukovich’s and the POR’s strongest area of performance. Ukraine’s crucial balance between East and West has been successfully reinstated, and Ukrainian-Russian relations – left in a shambles by the previous government – have been restored. At the same time, Ukraine has (for the time being), resisted Moscow’s calls for trading national infrastructure for more favorable pricing of energy imports. Meanwhile, despite strains with western governments – in particular, over the conviction of Yulia Timoshenko – the United States and the European Union have hesitated to push Kiev too hard. For example, calls to boycott the Euro 2012 soccer championship, successfully co-hosted by Ukraine and Poland, did not assume major proportions.

II. ECONOMICS

Grade: 4

Ukraine’s economy has held its ground and turned in a credible performance at a time of massive global uncertainty and decline in major export markets. With the United States stuck in persistent recession and the EU wracked by debt and internecine strife, this is no small accomplishment. Ukraine has managed to keep IMF support on track thanks to the government's credible macro-economic management. Gas prices remain a difficult issue for Kiev. The IMF has delayed disbursing the latest “tranche” because of President Yanukovich's refusal to reduce gas price subsidies for domestic gas users (a major IMF condition). This allows Yanukovich to tell voters he has kept his promise not to raise gas fees, but leaves open the question of how he intends to meet the IMF's conditions. Yanukovich has deflected the issue by insisting Russia lower its gas prices to Ukraine. While that has proven a tough sell with Moscow, it allow Kiev to meet IMF conditions without raising Ukrainians’ gas usage fees, or dipping in to its foreign currency reserves.

III. SOCIAL INITIATIVES
(Language)

Grade: 4

In fulfillment of the Council of Europe’s Charter for Regional or Minority languages, and in furtherance of his campaign promise to protect Russian language rights, Viktor Yanukovich put his signature to Ukraine's new language law, which allows languages other than Ukrainian that are spoken by at least 10% of the local population as a native tongue to be accorded official status at the regional level. However, this still falls short of elevating Russian to a second official language on a par with Ukrainian, which Mr. Yanukovich promised to do during the campaign. AIU has endorsed Russia’s elevation to official status, based on the experience of democratic bi-lingual countries such as Canada, Finland, Belgium, and many others. Until Mr. Yanukovich has delivered on that promise, a “5” will not be awarded on this point.

James George Jatras: Mr. Jatras is a principal in a public advocacy firm based in Washington, DC. Prior to entering the private sector he was senior foreign policy adviser to the Republican leadership of the United States Senate. He earlier served as as an American Foreign Service Officer, where among other assignments he was assigned to the (then) Office of Soviet Union Affairs.