Politics of Ukraine

Державний лад України (Ukrainian)
Derzhavnyy lad Ukrayiny (Romanization)
Coat of arms of Ukraine
Polity typeUnitary semi-presidential constitutional republic
ConstitutionConstitution of Ukraine
Legislative branch
NameVerkhovna Rada
Meeting placeVerkhovna Rada Building, Kyiv
Executive branch
Head of State
CurrentlyVolodymyr Zelenskyy
AppointerDirect popular vote
Head of Government
TitlePrime Minister
CurrentlyDenys Shmyhal
AppointerVerkhovna Rada
NameGovernment of Ukraine
LeaderPrime Minister
AppointerVerkhovna Rada
HeadquartersCabinet of Ministries
Judicial branch
NameJudiciary of Ukraine
Constitutional Court
Chief judgeNataliya Shaptala
Seat14 Zhylianska St., Kyiv
Supreme Court
Chief judgeYaroslav Romanyuk

The politics of Ukraine take place in a framework of a semi-presidential republic and a multi-party system. A Cabinet of Ministers exercises executive power (jointly with the president until 1996). Legislative power is vested in Ukraine's parliament, the Verkhovna Rada (Ukrainian: Верховна Рада, lit.'Supreme Council').

As part of the Soviet Union as the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic until 1991, the political system featured a single-party socialist-republic framework characterized by the superior role of the Communist Party of Ukraine (CPU), the sole-governing party then permitted by the Ukrainian SSR's constitution. In 1996, the current constitution replaced the previous constitution that was introduced in 1978.

The widely condemned Russian annexations of Crimea in 2014, and of Donetsk and Luhansk in 2022 have complicated the de facto political situation associated with those areas.

Constitution and fundamental freedoms

See also: Constitution of Ukraine

Shortly after becoming independent in 1991, Ukraine named parliamentary commission to prepare a new constitution, adopted a multi-party system, and adopted legislative guarantees of civil and political rights for national minorities. A new, democratic constitution was adopted on 28 June 1996, which mandates a pluralistic political system with protection of basic human rights and liberties, and a semi-presidential form of government.

The Constitution was amended in December 2004[1] to ease the resolution of the 2004 presidential election crisis. The consociationalist agreement transformed the form of government in a semi-presidentialism in which the president of Ukraine had to cohabit with a powerful prime minister. The Constitutional Amendments took force between January and May 2006.

The Constitutional Court of Ukraine in October 2010 overturned the 2004 amendments, considering them unconstitutional.[2] The present valid Constitution of Ukraine is therefore the 1996 text. On November 18, 2010, The Venice Commission published its report titled The Opinion of the Constitutional Situation in Ukraine in Review of the Judgement of Ukraine's Constitutional Court, in which it stated "It also considers highly unusual that far-reaching constitutional amendments, including the change of the political system of the country - from a parliamentary system to a parliamentary presidential one - are declared unconstitutional by a decision of the Constitutional Court after a period of 6 years. ... As Constitutional Courts are bound by the Constitution and do not stand above it, such decisions raise important questions of democratic legitimacy and the rule of law".[3]

On February 21, 2014, the parliament passed a law that reinstated the December 8, 2004 amendments of the constitution.[4] This was passed under simplified procedure without any decision of the relevant committee and was passed in the first and the second reading in one voting by 386 deputies.[4] The law was approved by 140 MPs of the Party of Regions, 89 MPs of Batkivshchyna, 40 MPs of UDAR, 32 of the Communist Party, and 50 independent lawmakers.[4] According to Radio Free Europe, however, the measure was not signed by the then-president Viktor Yanukovych, who was subsequently removed from office.[5]

Fundamental Freedoms and basic elements of constitutional system

Article 1 of the Constitution defines Ukraine a sovereign, independent, social (welfare) state.

According to Article 5 of the Constitution, the bearer of sovereignty and the single source of power in Ukraine are the people. The people exercise their power directly and through state and local authorities. Nobody can usurp power in Ukraine.

The Article 15 of the Constitution established that public life in Ukraine is based on principles of political, economical, and ideological diversity. No ideology could be recognized by the state as mandatory.

Freedom of religion is guaranteed by law, although religious organizations are required to register with local authorities and with the central government. The Article 35 of the Constitution defines that no religion could be recognized by the state as mandatory, while church and religious organizations in Ukraine are separated from the state.

Minority rights are respected in accordance with a 1991 law guaranteeing ethnic minorities the right to schools, educational buildings, and cultural facilities and the use of national languages in conducting personal business. According to the Ukrainian constitution, Ukrainian is the only official state language. However, in Crimea and some parts of eastern Ukraine—areas with substantial ethnic Russian minorities—the use of Russian is widespread in official business.

Freedom of speech and press are guaranteed by law, but authorities sometimes interfere with the news media through different forms of pressure (see Freedom of the press in Ukraine). In particular, the failure of the government to conduct a thorough, credible, and transparent investigation into the 2000 disappearance and murder of independent journalist Georgiy Gongadze has had a negative effect on Ukraine's international image. Over half of Ukrainians polled by the Razumkov Center in early October 2010 (56.6%) believed political censorship existed in Ukraine.[6] Over half of Ukrainians feel political censorship, Kyiv Post (October 9, 2010)

Official labor unions have been grouped under the Federation of Labor Unions. A number of independent unions, which emerged in 1992, among them the Independent Union of Miners of Ukraine, have formed the Consultative Council of Free Labor Unions. While the right to strike is legally guaranteed, strikes based solely on political demands are prohibited.

Executive branch

Main office-holders
Office Name Party Since
President Volodymyr Zelensky Servant of the People 20 May 2019
Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal Independent 4 March 2020

The president is elected by popular vote for a five-year term.[7] The president nominates the prime minister, who must be confirmed by parliament. The prime minister and cabinet are de jure appointed by the Parliament on submission of the president and prime minister, respectively. Pursuant to Article 114 of the Constitution of Ukraine.

Legislative branch

The Verkhovna Rada (Parliament of Ukraine) has 450 members, elected for a four-year term (five-year between 2006 and 2012 with the 2004 amendments). Prior to 2006, half of the members were elected by proportional representation, and the other half by single-seat constituencies. In the 2006 and 2007 Ukrainian parliamentary elections, all 450 members of the Verkhovna Rada were elected by party-list proportional representation, but the system returned to parallel voting in 2012.

The Verkhovna Rada initiates legislation, ratifies international agreements, and approves the budget.

Political parties and elections

See also: Political parties in Ukraine and Elections in Ukraine

Ukrainian parties tend not to have clear-cut ideologies[8] but are incline to centre around civilizational and geostrategic orientations (rather than economic and socio-political agendas, as in Western politics),[9] around personalities and business interests.[10][11][12][13][14][15][16][17][18][19][20][21][excessive citations] Party membership is lower than 1% of the population eligible to vote (compared to an average of 4.7% in the European Union[22]).[23][24]

Judicial branch

Main article: Judicial system of Ukraine

constitutional jurisdiction:

general jurisdiction:

Laws, acts of the parliament and the Cabinet, presidential edicts, and acts of the Crimean parliament (Autonomous Republic of Crimea) may be nullified by the Constitutional Court of Ukraine when they are found to violate the Constitution of Ukraine. Other normative acts are subject to judicial review. The Supreme Court of Ukraine is the main body in the system of courts of general jurisdiction.

The Constitution of Ukraine provides for trials by jury. This has not yet been implemented in practice. Moreover, some courts provided for by legislation as still in project, as is the case for, e.g., the Court of Appeals of Ukraine. The reform of the judicial branch is presently underway. Important is also the Office of the Prosecutor General of Ukraine, granted the broad rights of control and supervision.

Administrative divisions

Main article: Administrative divisions of Ukraine

Ukraine is divided into 24 oblasts (regions). Each oblast is divided into rayons (districts). The current administrative divisions remain the same as the local administrations of the Soviet Union. The heads of the oblast and rayon are appointed and dismissed by the president of Ukraine. They serve as representatives of the central government in Kyiv. They govern over locally elected assemblies. This system encourages regional elites to compete fiercely for control over the central government and the position of the president.[25]

Autonomous Republic of Crimea

Main article: Politics of Crimea

In 1992, a number of pro-Russian political organizations in Crimea advocated the secession of Crimea and annexation into Russia. During USSR times Crimea was ceded from Russia to Ukraine in 1954 by First Secretary Nikita Khrushchev to mark the 300th anniversary of the Treaty of Pereyaslav. In July 1992, the Crimean and Ukrainian parliaments determined that Crimea would remain under Ukrainian jurisdiction while retaining significant cultural and economic autonomy, thus creating the Autonomous Republic of Crimea.

The Crimean peninsula—while under Ukrainian sovereignty, served as a site for major military bases of both Ukrainian and Russian forces, and was heavily populated by ethnic Russians.

In early 2014, Ukraine's pro-Russian president, Viktor Yanukovych, was ousted by Ukrainians over his refusal to ally Ukraine with the European Union, rather than Russia. In response, Russia invaded Crimea in February 2014 and occupied it.

In March 2014,[26] during occupation a controversial referendum was held in Crimea with 97% of voters backing joining Russia.[27]

On 18 March 2014, Russia and the new, self-proclaimed Republic of Crimea signed a treaty of accession of the Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol in the Russian Federation. In response, the UN General Assembly passed non-binding resolution 68/262 declaring the referendum invalid and officially supporting Ukraine's claim to Crimea. Although Russia administers the peninsula as two federal subjects, Ukraine and the majority of countries do not recognise Russia's annexation.[28][29]

Foreign relations

Main article: Foreign relations of Ukraine

See also

Center for Adaptation of Civil Service to the Standards of EU - a public institution established by the Decree of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine to facilitate administrative reform in Ukraine and to enhance the adaptation of the civil service to the standards of the European Union.


  1. ^ Laws of Ukraine. Verkhovna Rada decree No. 2222-IV: About the amendments to the Constitution of Ukraine. Adopted on 2004-12-08. (Ukrainian)
  2. ^ Update: Return to 1996 Constitution strengthens president, raises legal questions, Kyiv Post (October 1, 2010)
  3. ^ Opinion on the constitutional situation in Ukraine dated December 20, 2010 - Source Venice Commission http://www.venice.coe.int/WebForms/documents/?pdf=CDL-AD(2010)044-e
  4. ^ a b c Ukrainian parliament reinstates 2004 Constitution, Interfax-Ukraine (21 February 2014)
  5. ^ Sindelar, Daisy (February 23, 2014). "Was Yanukovych's Ouster Constitutional?". Radio Free Europe, Radio Liberty (Rferl.org). Retrieved February 25, 2014. Yanukovych, however, failed to sign the measure.
  6. ^ "Over half of Ukrainians feel political censorship - Oct. 09, 2010". 9 October 2010.
  7. ^ "New Ukrainian president will be elected for 5-year term – Constitutional Court". Interfax-Ukraine. 16 May 2014. Archived from the original on 17 May 2014. Retrieved 29 May 2014.
  8. ^ Against All Odds:Aiding Political Parties in Georgia and Ukraine by Max Bader, Vossiuspers UvA, 2010, ISBN 978-90-5629-631-5 (page 82)
  9. ^ Ukraine right-wing politics: is the genie out of the bottle?, openDemocracy.net (January 3, 2011)
  10. ^ Black Sea Politics:Political Culture and Civil Society in an Unstable Region, I. B. Tauris, 2005, ISBN 978-1-84511-035-2 (page 45)
  11. ^ State-Building:A Comparative Study of Ukraine, Lithuania, Belarus, and Russia by Verena Fritz, Central European University Press, 2008, ISBN 978-963-7326-99-8 (page 189)
  12. ^ Political Parties of Eastern Europe:A Guide to Politics in the Post-Communist Era by Janusz Bugajski, M.E. Sharpe, 2002, ISBN 978-1-56324-676-0 (page 829)
  13. ^ Ukraine and European Society (Chatham House Papers) by Tor Bukkvoll, Pinter, 1998, ISBN 978-1-85567-465-3 (page 36)
  14. ^ How Ukraine Became a Market Economy and Democracy by Anders Åslund, Peterson Institute for International Economics, 2009, ISBN 978-0-88132-427-3
  15. ^ The Rebirth of Europe by Elizabeth Pond, Brookings Institution Press, 2002, ISBN 978-0-8157-7159-3 (page 146)
  16. ^ Communist and Post-Communist Parties in Europe by Uwe Backes and Patrick Moreau, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2008, ISBN 978-3-525-36912-8 (page 383 and 396)
  17. ^ The Crisis of Russian Democracy:The Dual State, Factionalism and the Medvedev Succession by Richard Sakwa, Cambridge University Press, 2011, ISBN 978-0-521-14522-0 (page 110)
  18. ^ To Balance or Not to Balance:Alignment Theory And the Commonwealth of Independent States by Eric A. Miller, Ashgate Publishing, ISBN 978-0-7546-4334-0 (page 129)
  19. ^ Ukraine:Challenges of the Continuing Transition Archived 2011-07-21 at the Wayback Machine, National Intelligence Council (Conference Report August 1999)
  20. ^ Understanding Ukrainian Politics:Power, Politics, And Institutional Design by Paul D'Anieri, M. E. Sharpe, 2006, ISBN 978-0-7656-1811-5 (page 189)
  21. ^ Former German Ambassador Studemann views superiority of personality factor as fundamental defect of Ukrainian politics, Kyiv Post (December 21, 2009)
  22. ^ Research Archived 2012-01-16 at the Wayback Machine, European Union Democracy Observatory
  23. ^ Ukraine: Comprehensive Partnership for a Real Democracy, Center for International Private Enterprise, 2010
  24. ^ Poll: Ukrainians unhappy with domestic economic situation, their own lives, Kyiv Post (September 12, 2011)
  25. ^ "The Politics of Regionalism". Eurasia Review. Archived from the original on 5 August 2014. Retrieved 3 August 2014.
  26. ^ "Russian Roulette: The Invasion of Ukraine (Dispatch One)". vicenews.com. 5 March 2014. Retrieved 20 October 2015.
  27. ^ "Official results: 97 percent of Crimea voters back joining Russia". cbsnews.com. 17 March 2014. Retrieved 20 October 2015.
  28. ^ Alex Felton; Marie-Louise Gumuchian (27 March 2014). "U.N. General Assembly resolution calls Crimean referendum invalid". cnn.com. Retrieved 20 October 2015.
  29. ^ Michel, Casey, [one-year-after-russias-annexation-world-has-forgotten-crimea "The Crime of the Century,"], March 4, 2015, The New Republic