Archive for May 28th, 2013

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New domestic geographical regions for Ukraine? What determines new boundaries?

May 28, 2013

Following on from yesterday’s post relating to reforms in local governance, this article appeared in Дело with a proposal from Party of Regions MP Sergei Grinevetsky to reduce the current 24 Ukrainian regions down to 8 – quoting unnamed scientists having stated this would be the best way forwards.

(Oh yes, Ukrainian politicians are like all other politicians globally when it comes to quoting unnamed scientists and unnamed scientific papers to the media in order to add the appearance of academic support for their views.)

The proposed new regions would be:

The Autonomous Republic of Crimea – Donetsk Region (Donetsk and Luhansk) – the Carpathian Region (Lviv, Ivano Frankivsk, Chernivtsi, Transcarpathia) – Kyiv Region (Kyiv, Kirovograd, Cherkassy, Chernogov) – Podolsky Region (Vinnitsia, Khmelnytsky, Ternopil region) – Polessky region (Volyn, Rivne, Zhytomyr region) – Dnieper region (Dnipropetrovsk, Zaporizhia region) – Black Sea region (Odessa, Kherson, Mykolaiv region) – Slobozhanskiy region (Kharkiv, Sumy, Poltava region)

The rationale behind it, to provide a clear vertical to the executive (as if the current 24 regional governors don’t accomplish that) – consolidation of monetary and financial resources (bringing real concerns over the equalisation of funding between major cities in a particular region) – reducing bureaucracy and therefore corruption (although as the bureaucratic system will not change even if those who administer it sit in a different building, I’m not sure how it will reduce bureaucracy or corruption).

He claims it will also increase the optimisation of inter-regional links and strengthen them (by creating cross cutting cleavages as it is known in political science one presumes), it will miraculously reduce the number of depressed areas (because 8 regional heads are better than 24 at dealing with this issue?) thus reducing the socio-economic gaps in development.

It all appears to be purely and simply based on ease of administration, and nothing considered relating to the  opportunities the redrawing of regional geography can provide – thus it is entirely flawed from any other perspective other than making life easy for “the administration” of whomever is in power.

Now there is much to be said when it comes to political power structures and the number of geographical regions within a nation as scholars such as Lijphart, Horowitz, Lipset, Sklar and Dahl (to name but a few) have written – and there are broadly two schools of thought when it comes to breaking down regional polarising identifiers necessary for a tolerant society.  There is the Lijphart school of thought, of which I am not a fan – and there is the Horowitz school of thought, to which I am much more sympathetic.

If the Ukrainian internal geopolitical landscape is to be redrawn, there are several challenges to meet if the opportunity is to be fully grasped – and with due respect to Sergei Grinevetsky and his unnamed scientists, the proposed new regions fail to address three critical dimensions as well as they could – and probably should.

The proposed new borders do not address the political need to create new cross cutting cleavages (and thus create  more than one identity for people in the new regions founded upon their individual numerous diverse interests).  The political and ethnic orientated (and much written about) east/west divide in Ukraine is simply not addressed.  The economic geographical realities are not dispersed and inclusive enough for the same reason – and a growing and visible middle class is necessary for any democracy.  By failing to be more creative and mixing up the political, social and economic dimensions of Ukrainian life when drawing new borders, there is no initiative to generate more inclusive institutions that create compromise.

Neat lines on the map are not what is required to gain, consolidate and develop a tolerant democratic society – whether it be from the top, down – or the bottom, up.  If it is necessary to create a messy jigsaw of varied and uneven pieces to break up the current polarity where the opportunity arises – so be it.

Why not put Odessa with Vinnitsia, Mykolaiv and Kirovograd with whom it has land borders, but very different political, social and economic biases?  Why not divide Ukraine horizontally top, middle and bottom?  Or Diagonally?  Why not divide it north and south bisecting the current east/west divide?  If 8 regions is the magic number (which it isn’t) – why not 8 regions running north to south, insuring every region includes cities, urban and rural demands with both orange and blue political centres in each region, insuring everything is done in shades of purple?

Does society as a whole benefit in the long term from a blue regional administration sitting very comfortably in a blue region, or an orange administration in an orange region – or does it benefit more from either a blue or orange administration sitting far less comfortably in a purple region, whereby inclusiveness and compromise are necessary to enjoy more broad based support and get thing done that are mutually desired by all?

Why not complicate the patriarchal regional fiefdoms as much as possible given the chance?  Why not make it harder for them to function by mixing up the constituencies in which they are used to working?

Why change it at all if there is no obvious attempt to maximise the long term democratic outcome for social development and inclusiveness?

In short, in this proposal of new regional borders, there is no attempt at diversification from the current political regional tribalism – and as Sklar noted, “tribalism is a mask for class privilege“, by which he meant it is in political interests to retain areas of political tribalism to insure a politician rises to the top based upon the divisions of society, rather than any attempt at inclusiveness.

Horowitz states something similar when he states “Parties that begin merely by mirroring divisions help to deepen and extend them.”  – Where exactly, do the newly proposed borders fail to mirror the existing divisions?

I see nothing within the proposed borders that will create cross-cutting cleavages outside of the east/west divide in any significant way.  In fact the new borders proposed solidify the current regional biases rather than diversify them.

It would be interesting to know just what field the scientists to which  Sergei Grinevetsky refers come from, and perhaps more specifically what the parameters surrounding their recommendations where.  Purely economic?  Purely social?  Purely political?

Purely for administrative ease to the cost of a great opportunity seems most likely!

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