There are a combination of institutional and structural factors that account for party development in Ukraine. They include:
- The weakness of ideology in political parties
- Poor incentives for party institutionalisation due to the design and instability of the institutional rules of the game
- Extensive use of state administrative resources by regime-supported parties
- The dominance of party leaders at the expense of internal party democracy
- The vast influence of financial industrial groups (FIGs) the vast influence of various FIGs on parties’ formation, operation, decision-making, legislative activity and voting records in parliament.
Regional differentiation is considered to be significantly more important in explaining patterns of party support than rural/urban distinctions. Regional differentiation of party support and the limited ability of any party to establish a truly national electorate has been a persistent feature of Ukrainian parliamentary elections. Regional identities were mobilised by parties during election campaigns in the absence of coherent ideological or programmatic party differentiation.
Political parties remain heavily dependent upon the presence of a charismatic leader to win votes, and the most successful parties/coalitions of the last decade have been excessively personalised. Parties therefore often function as the personal ‘project’ of a particular individual, and even the core ‘team’ can be quite fluid and change affiliation between elections.
Ukrainian voters have little idea about the ideological or programmatic orientation of the parties they vote for, instead tending to be guided by the ‘personal factor’ of the leader, which is not surprising given the amorphous positioning of parties and frequent changes in stated policy preferences of leaders. Given the dramatic restructuring of the party space during 2014, it is likely to be even harder for voters to identify the orientation of parties.