Ukrainian Parliament: a Non-democratic Organ?
Many foreigners assume that Ukraine is essentially a democratic country with a democratically elected president and parliament. However, a closer look at the Ukrainian Parliament reveals that this government body does not represent voters' interests due to flawed electoral mechanisms. Furthermore, no one is in a hurry to bring these mechanisms in accordance with democratic standards.
Symptom #1: Two-thirds of members of Parliament are from two regions of Ukraine — Kiev oblast (including Kiev) and Donetsk oblast — which represent just 1/6 of Ukraine's population.
Symptom #2: Ukraine's Parliament is full of wealthy businessmen and oligarchs who have little to do with the legislative process.
Symptom #3: No one voted for these businessmen and oligarchs.
Obviously, a parliament with these characteristics can hardly be called representative. Who is representing the interests of Ukraine's vast rural population or even the interests of major cities such as Kharkov, Odessa, or Lviv? If voters are dissatisfied with how their interests are being represented in Parliament, what recourse do they have?
In most democracies, voters choose representatives from their regions to represent their interests at the national level. These representatives answer to their electorate and risk not being re-elected if they do a poor job or face stronger challengers.
In Ukraine the situation is quite different. Voters elect parties, not representatives, and the parties themselves choose which party members will enter Parliament. Ballots present a list of political parties that voters put a check mark by. Each political party makes its own list of potential deputees (i.e. members of Parliament). Depending on how many votes the party receives, the top X number of people become deputees after elections.
This simple "technicality" has far-reaching effects. Voters essentially vote for the party leader — Yuschenko, Yanukovich, Tymoshenko, Lytvyn, Simonenko, Moroz, Vitrenko, etc. — rather than for specific party representatives. The leader's rating is the party's main asset which allows all the other people on the party rolls to slip into Parliament. Voters usually do not know most of the people on the party rolls and choose parties based on their attitude towards the leader and the party as a whole.
Many businessmen get into Parliament to enjoy the full legal immunity that deputees are provided. The price tag of a place high in the party list supposedly runs into the millions of dollars.