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III Ukraine, Russia and Kazakhstan

: Ukraine’s Democratisation Path Post-Orange Revolution: Examining the Internal and External Impediments to Successful Democratic Reform in Ukraine

Nicholas Ross Smith


The chapter assesses Ukraine’s attempted democratisation since its Orange Revolution which occurred at the end of 2004. The Orange Revolution raised high hopes for a positive upsurge in Ukraine’s post-Soviet democra- tisation efforts, a transition which had previously stagnated and faltered. However, a decade after the Orange Revolution, Ukraine has made little progress with regard to democratisation. Invoking a liberal definition of democracy,1 it is argued that while Ukraine has had largely free and fair elections since the Orange Revolution, it has fallen well short of democratic standards in other, more substantive ‘liberal’ areas of democracy such as civil society, independent media, rule of law and state-level corruption. Thus,

N.R. Smith (*)

National Centre for Research on Europe, University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand e-mail: This email address is being protected from spam bots, you need Javascript enabled to view it

© The Author(s) 2017

Fish, Gill, Petrovic (eds.), A Quarter Century of Post-Communism Assessed, DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-43437-7_10

despite numerous statements and pledges by high-ranking officials to undertake greater democratisation, Ukraine has continued to stagnate as a kind of illiberal (or managed) democracy.

This chapter is demarcated into three main sections. The first section examines Ukraine’s history with democratisation from independence until present day. It is argued that while the 2004 Orange Revolution produced hope for a positive democratic turn in Ukraine, it became clear by 2010 that no significant democratic gains were made, and eventually regression occurred under the rule ofViktor Yanukovych thereafter. The second section asks the question ‘Why has Ukraine failed to democratise’ and identifies two key impediments. Internally, it is argued that the role of elites - specifically in this case, the oligarchisation of power - has been detrimental to Ukraine’s democratisation efforts. Externally, it is argued that Ukraine’s geopolitical positioning in Eastern Europe is a bulwark to the potential external diffusion of democracy. The last section builds on the first two and discusses what the democratic prospects of Ukraine are moving forward. It is argued that the oligarchisation of power is an internal impediment which shows no signs of changing in the near future. However, if the European Union (EU) could improve its external democracy promotion, it might conceivably incentivise elites into making democratic concessions. Ultimately, given the EU’s flaws as an agent of democratisation and Russia’s strong strategic anti-democratic interests in Ukraine, Ukraine’s continued democratic underachievement seems set to remain in the foreseeable future.

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