Using mathematical methods in political science helps us see the process of molding and development of political structures in a new light. In a malleable political environment, it is crucial to understand the situation in the Verkhovna Rada at the macro level. We should include questions such as whether Parliament is polarized; who and how supports legislative initiatives; how consolidated parliamentary parties are; and who is stronger, the coalition or the opposition. We do not seek to answer all questions immediately. We hope to outline the trend of further research on the main legislative body of Ukraine.
VoxUkraine continues to analyze the work of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine through open data. We reviewed 516 final votings ("as a whole") throughout the 4th session of the VIII convocation (from February 1 through July 22, 2016) and found some consistent patterns that help gain greater insight into the Ukrainian Parliament’s behavior. The data can be downloaded from data.voxukraine.org and opendata.rada.gov.ua
Polarity is common to modern parliaments of democratic countries. There’s a governing coalition on the one side and the opposition on the other side. The parliament’s pole may consist of a single faction or several ones. The poles balance each other and thereby mitigate the likelihood of a legislative monopoly. The United States Congress with two competing parties, the Democratic Party and the Republican Party, is a classic example of a bipolar parliament. In Italy, there’s a multipolar parliament with two large poles. The Russian Duma in 1995 is an example of a unipolar parliament (the State Duma reached its maximum polarization in 2003).
Today’s Ukrainian Parliament is bipolar. The core of the coalition pole numbers 234 MPs. 2/3 of them are representatives of either the Petro Poroshenko Bloc or the People’s Front. The rest consists of non-affiliated MPs, the majority of Samopomich, Batkivshchyna, and Radical Party. The average level of support for the draft laws among the coalition pole MPs is 80%. The level of support is the ratio between the number of votes "in favor" and the total number of votes.
In contrast, the opposition pole numbers 175 MPs with 25% level of support for draft laws. MPs from the Opposition Bloc, "Vidrodzhennya", and "Volia narodu" make up almost half of this pole. Also, the opposition pole includes 28 representatives of Petro Poroshenko Bloc and 17 representatives of People’s Front. There are three reasons why they weren’t able to join the coalition pole: they either skipped plenary meetings and votes or they were voting against the faction line, or haven’t been performing their duties long enough.
Let’s now turn from polarity to analysis on how different factions support each other’s legislative initiatives. We suggest exploring the matrix of parliamentary support that displays the percentage of votes "in favor" each faction cast for draft laws submitted by other factions, as well as by the President and the Cabinet of Ministers. Rows show factions as voting subjects. Columns show factions plus the President and the Cabinet of Ministers as subjects of legislative initiative. At the intersection of rows and columns, you can see the percentage of "in favor" votes a fraction gave for draft laws by a particular initiator.
Let’s pay attention to the line "* - the number of draft laws submitted by the faction" which displays the number of the final votes for the draft laws initiated by members of a particular faction. For example, only one draft law from among "Volia narodu" initiatives made its way to the final vote and was adopted by the Parliament. If a draft law was initiated by several MPs from different factions, we attributed it to the MP whose name was the first on the list.
One can note that a faction’s level of support varies according to who initiates a draft law. We can draw a number of valuable conclusions from the matrix:
Two preliminary conclusions can be drawn from the results obtained.
First, the polarity of the Ukrainian Parliament is characteristic of a democratic political system. The history of most post-Soviet countries has shown that societies with artificially limited political competition and imposed unipolarity enable autocratic regimes to seize the power, followed by a crackdown on most civil liberties.
Secondly, despite the uncompromising rhetoric and hardline mutual threats and accusations, the Ukrainian Parliament sustains its reputation as a negotiable institution. Numerous cases of supporting the "enemy" draft laws and joint submissions of legislative initiatives are good proof of this.
Studying the Parliament’s behavior is essential to the further development of political institutions and civil society’s evaluation of how people's representatives perform their duties. At times, the work of the Parliament is reminiscent of Brownian motion, in which it’s extremely difficult to identify the important behavioral patterns of both factions and individual MPs. The problem can be solved through developing Open Data projects and using up-to-date analysis methods. This approach will help voters monitor and improve the work of the Parliament, thus consolidating the country’s democratic foundations.