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This is the first part of two posts analyzing Ukrainian elections. This first part will focus upon the 2004 presidential election, which showed a remarkable degree of regional polarization. The second part can be found here.

The 2004 Presidential Election, Version Ukraine


More below.

In the last months of 2004, Ukraine held a total of three elections. In the first round, candidates Viktor Yanukovych and Viktor Yushchenko received the greatest share of votes. The two then competed in what turned out to be a rigged run-off, with Mr. Yanukovych supposedly winning. After prolonged protests, cumulating in the Orange Revolution, another run-off was held. Pro-western candidate Viktor Yushchenko ended up as the victor of this fair run-off, beginning what would prove to be a troubled presidential term.

This post will analyze the third, and possibly the only unrigged, election. Here is a map of the results:


(Note: This map is taken from the site ElectoralGeography. It’s analysis of the 2004 Ukrainian election can be found here.)

In this third round, Mr. Yushchenko ended up with 51.2% of the vote, compared to the 44.2% support earned by his opponent (the rest voted "informal" or "against all").

The first thing one notices is the overwhelming degree of polarization. It is almost as if Ukraine is two separate nations happening to inhabit the same name. In the western and central Ukraine, Mr. Yushchenko is a rock star; he wins greater than 60% of the vote in every single province. But in eastern Ukraine and the Black Sea coast, Mr. Yushchenko is deeply, deeply unpopular – winning less than 40% of the vote in all but one province.

Indeed, there does not seem to be much of a middle ground. Mr. Yushchenko either wins by a landslide, or he loses by a landslide. He either gets more than 60% of the vote or less than 40%. This analysis still holds true as one looks at the results at a more detailed level:


(Image Courtesy of ElectoralGeography.)

The regional borders constitute an almost perfect dividing line between Yushchenko-land and Yanukovych-land. There is some lessening in polarization as one approaches the "border," but not much. One often goes straight from 60+% Yushchenko support to 60+% Yanukovych support.

This phenomenon was not just unique to the 2004. In election after election, Ukraine is divided into two camps: the northwest votes pro-West; the southeast votes pro-Russian.

Here is the 2010 presidential election:

Ukraine 2010 Presidential Election

This map indicates Mr. Yanukovych’s support in the 2010 presidential election, by province. This time he won – in a fair election – claiming 49.0% of the vote to the 45.5% polled by his opponent Yulia Tymoshenko. Compared to 2004, polarization has gone slightly down; this time only four provinces gave more than 90% of the vote to one candidate, instead of six.

Or take the 2007 parliamentary elections:


Guess which part of Ukraine voted for Mr. Yanukovych’s party.

This type of regional polarization did not occur by chance or luck. Rather, Ukraine’s electoral divide has long-standing historical and linguistic roots. Modern Ukraine itself contains two almost separate identities, which elections simply happen to reflect. The next section will analyze how differences came into being.

Originally posted to Inoljt on Wed Aug 25, 2010 at 06:05 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Interesting this geographical schism (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jimbobb, dorkenergy, bobsc

    As they were occupied, it seems like they were all Ukrainians.  But now that they are their own country, it looks as though they could divide.  

    May they find political solutions to their divide. I don't believe it is that deep as to warrant separation like Czechoslovakia did a few years ago, but yet something like this could potentially lead to the country's citizens fighting with one another on this.  

    All the best for peace and prosperity for Ukraine.    

    •  The split is partly old and cultural (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      FG, dorkenergy, ardyess

      part historic, part religious...

      The western parts were more likely to be occupied (and made more Polish as in the Catholic religion or "Eastern Rite" Catholic while the eastern parts had less of a history of successful conversion from original Russian Orthodox to Catholic and was likely to be more independent from Polish influence...

      And historically, being "Russian" wasn't seen so much as something that was ethnic, linguistic, or even so tied up with where you are from as much as whether you were Russian Orthodox or not.

      Some from the eastern parts see themselves as Russians as well, not just Ukrainians.

      Now much of the religious part melted away over the last century but a cultural overlay seems to have remained...

      The original separatist ideology was strongest in the most extreme west, in areas either controlled by Austria-Hungary or Poland near the Austrian border... Some of those farthest areas have not been part of Russia since just a few centuries after Kievan Rus was founded.    

      •  I'm not sure how much does the religion (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        dorkenergy, ardyess

        contribute here. Greek Catholics are a majority in western Ukraine (Lviv and farther west) but are a distinct minority in central Ukraine. I think the division is primarily linguistic (Russian-speaking vs Ukrainian-speaking) and cultural. In religion, more serious division is between Russian Orthodox and Ukranian Orthodox churches.

      •  Since I'm part Ukrainian (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        from my maternal grandfather, I feel that I know some about the culture, and sometimes a bit guilty that I don't know more. I'm sort of aware of the difference of religions.  I know that there are political difficulties there. That being said, this is the first time that I've seen it on a map like this, and I guess it sort of puts things into some prospective for me.

        The good thing was though, that we'd celebrate the regular calendar Christmas and New Years (not that I'm religious, I just like the celebrations part)and then many times did them over again since the Orthodoxy celebrates these holidays two weeks later.  

        Lots and lots of good ethnic food on the dinner table, and all the booze you could want....

    •  I think a lot depends on how well Russia does (0+ / 0-)

      economically... and if Ukraine does poorly...

      If so, then the split may drive many in the east toward reunification... or it may drive their politics to closer cooperation with Russia, which I think is more likely in the short term.  

    •  It is quite a large divide, but (0+ / 0-)

      on the other hand I don't see Ukraine separating into two countries.

      One biggie is that Ukraine isn't composed of two different ethnic groups, as Czechoslovakia was (to the best of my knowledge).

      by Inoljt on Wed Aug 25, 2010 at 10:20:58 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  It depends of course (0+ / 0-)

        on what one considers a separate ethnic group... This can be tricky business.

        Some might lump Ukrainians in with Belorussians and Russians as one ethnic group... Some there now may feel that way, others don't.  Certainly Russia itself was founded in Kiev and it's population then spread out, so perhaps someone could call Russians as "Ukrainians" or vice versa...

        Then one can get into the individual Slavic tribes of yesteryear and find that Ukrainians (and Russians, Belorussians) were actually made up different "Rus" tribes (that were likely the same at one point).  (This is also true of Poland, which is made up of a group of related tribes, taking the name from the dominant tribe called the "Polens")

        Ukrainians have little subgroups of people or tribes that are now largely forgotten, such as the "Boyko's" in the Carpathian mountains.... They saw themselves as part of the larger "Rusyns" (English Ruthenians or Little Russians, which got changed to "Ukrainians" with the separatist (and anti-communist) movement of WW1.


  •  Thanks so much for a wonderful diary. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jimbobb, dorkenergy

    ElectoralGeography looks like an interesting site.

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