Freedom House has published Nations in Transit 2013: Authoritarian Aggression and the Pressures of Austerity, a comprehensive, comparative study of democratic development in 29 countries from Central Europe to Eurasia. Excerpts below on Ukraine:
This edition covers the period from January 1 through December 31, 2012 and measures progress according to the following indicators: electoral process, civil society, independent media, national democratic governance, local democratic governance, judicial framework and independence, and corruption.
…in Central Europe, a public backlash against unpopular austerity measures de¬stabilized several governments in 2012, testing the durability of democratic institutions. Despite frequent government changes and heightened political polarization, most states in the region were able to respond to mounting pressure without significantly straying from core democratic norms.
Notable Trends in Nations in Transit 2013 include:
abuses in Ukraine
The president’s concentration of power in the executive branch and misuse of the judiciary for political purposes has undermined the system of checks and balances, threatening Ukraine’s pluralistic political model with growing authoritarianism.
Viktor Yanukovych won the 2010 presidential election, and a Constitutional Court decision later that year reversed 2004 constitutional amendments that had shifted power from the presidency to the prime minister and parliament. According to the revised charter, the parliament is no longer authorized to appoint and dismiss cabinet ministers, though it retains the right to confirm the prime minister, who is appointed by the president. In practice, the parliament lost its authority over the executive branch.
Former prime minister Yuliya Tymoshenko, leader of the opposition party Batkivshchyna (Fatherland), was sentenced to seven years in prison in 2011 for “misuse of power,” and one of her key allies also remained in prison during 2012 after what were widely seen as politically motivated trials. Nevertheless, three major opposition political forces—Batkivshchyna, the United Democratic Alliance for Reform (UDAR), and Svoboda (Freedom)—secured a combined 50 percent of the vote during the 2012 parliamentary elections, demonstrating a strong desire for change among voters.
Yanukovych has rearranged the structures of national governance, putting an emphasis on personal connections and the predominance of the executive over the legislature and judiciary. His close entourage, known as the Family (with the president’s son, Oleksandr, playing a key role), occupies important positions in the government, which dramatically strengthens its position in the economy and politics.
The parliamentary elections held on 28 October were widely recognized as a step backward from previously achieved democratic standards. An election law adopted a year before the vote introduced a mixed proportional/majoritarian voting system that favored the ruling Party of Regions, allowing it and its coalition allies to sustain a slim majority even though most of electorate did not vote for it. Party of Regions candidates in majoritarian districts benefited from administrative resources, contributing to international monitors’ conclusion that the elections were characterized by “the lack of a level playing field.”
The imprisonment of Tymoshenko and a key ally, former interior minister Yuriy Lutsenko, barred them from running in the elections.