Political change from below? Local politics in Ukraine

Project coordination: Prof. Dr. Gwendolyn Sasse

This project seeks to systematically analyse the new political balance of power at the regional/local level in Ukraine, starting with three regional case studies (Dnipro, Kharkiv and Odesa). To date, these regions have in most cases been presented in research and in the Western media in an undifferentiated way as part of (south-)eastern Ukraine. With the political changes since 2014, this understanding has proved inadequate. One fact that is frequently overlooked is that the 2015 municipal elections resulted in a far higher degree of political diversity in local assemblies. In many south-eastern regions, the gap between a conglomerate of reformist forces and the opposition parties was far narrower than was generally assumed. Furthermore, the patterns of cooperation or confrontation behind policy-making at local and regional level are particularly relevant in light of the progress being made with decentralisation reforms in Ukraine.

How do the representatives of the different parties and interest groups negotiate at the local level? Do these dynamics change with the political and economic incentives created by the reform of local government? Where do the differences lie between local, regional and national decision-making processes? From these empirical questions, larger conceptual issues emerge regarding democratisation “from below” and possible tensions between national and regional/local politics.