In November 2004, Ukraine garnered the world’s attention as hundreds of thousands of citizens mobilized to challenge improperly administered presidential elections. Tense negotiations between the opposition and regime finally produced a compromise: another round of voting would be held for the presidency, and constitutional reforms subsequently would be enacted to enhance parliament’s authority vis-a-vis the president. The opposition’s victory in the repeat election secured the transfer of executive power from a group of entrenched semi-authoritarian elites to its challengers.
This unlikely sequence of events has received attention in the scholarly literature. Some researchers have focused on the causes of the “revolution” (Kuzio 2009), while others have emphasized mobilization and have used the Ukrainian case to better understand the phenomenon of “electoral revolutions” (Bunce and Wolchik 2006; Beissinger 2007; Tucker 2007). The implications of the Orange Revolution extend beyond these issues, however, and allow scholars to investigate additional questions about the development of effective political institutions in transitional societies.
As a new democracy with evolving political norms, Ukraine provides an ideal setting to investigate how cooperation and competition among political institutions develops. Using data about parliamentary oversight, this paper focuses on how the change in executive power influenced competition between the legislative and executive branches. Our main vehicle for investigating oversight is the deputy request, a tool available to Ukrainian members of parliament that allows them to request information or action from national and local organizations.
We address several questions about deputy requests at two levels of analysis. At the level of individual deputies, we assess how institutional rules, partisan affiliation, the legislator’s professional standing, and demographic features affect how legislators use this tool. At the level of parties, we investigate how a party’s affiliation with pro-regime or anti-regime activities influences the frequency and target of requests.
We address these issues in four sections. First, we outline our expectations about inter-branch relations, and address the formal mechanisms for interaction between the executive and legislature as well as the context of inter-branch conflict in Ukraine. Second, we present findings from our analysis of individual – level data to discern what features influence how deputies use requests. Third, we present data aggregated at the level of parties and parliamentary sessions to evaluate hypotheses about institutional and partisan effects. We conclude with a discussion of future research.