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 elites2 to its challengers. The Orange Revolution did not mark an end to change within Ukraine’s ruling elite. Not long after
Viktor Yushchenko’s accession to the presidency, he dismissed his erstwhile ally Yuliya Tymoshenko as prime minister in 2005. The subsequent 2006 and extraordinary 2007 parliamentary elections, and 2010 presidential election, yielded additional change to the occupants of executive positions. Ukraine’s experience with political change should affect how political elites interact with one another, especially regarding accountability.
As a new democracy with evolving political norms, Ukraine provides an ideal setting to investigate how accountability develops among competing elites and institutions. Using data about parliamentary oversight, this paper focuses on how the change in executive power influenced the interaction 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 used this tool prior to and following the Orange Revolution. At the level of requests, we investigate how the targets of requests are influenced by the issuing deputy’s affiliation with the standing government. The turnover in power among executives –both the president and prime minister – creates a conducive environment to evaluate the use of oversight tools.
The paper assesses the evolution of accountability by investigating the pre- and post- Orange Revolution periods of the 4th Rada convocation, and patterns of oversight under different governments in the 4th, 5th, and 6th convocations. 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 evaluate deputy requests, focusing on how targets vary according to the composition of government and the partisanship of the deputy issuing the request. We conclude with a discussion of the findings’ implications.