Ukraine has the most unpopular government ever

By bne IntelliNews August 7, 2009

bne -

Ukraine has the most unpopular government ever recorded, says pollster Gallup.

Some 85% of Ukrainians asked said they disapproved of their government and only one in 25 thought the government was doing okay. Ukrainians were equally disparaging of their leaders: 84% said they disapprove of President Viktor Yushchenko and 69% thought that Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko was doing a bad job. The 4% approval rating of the government is the worst result that Gallup has ever found in any country in the world.

Julie Ray and Neli Esipova of Gallup wrote in report on the results: "Ukrainians' high disapproval likely reflects frustration with the bitter political infighting between President Viktor Yushchenko and Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. The conflict between the former allies has essentially paralyzed policymaking for the past year and a half.

The irony of the results is that Ukraine is arguably the only true democracy in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and its low marks contrast starkly with the more authoritarian regimes, which are much more popular. Azerbaijan tops the CIS ranking, where the government enjoys a 77% approval rating, followed by Kazakhstan (71%), Armenia (62%) and Russia (56%). The most liberal countries in the region have all scored badly: crisis-plagued Lithuania did worst out of the three Baltic states, scoring a 13% approval rating, while Latvia did best. Even so, only one in four Latvians think the government is doing well.

Russia rules

Yushchenko and Tymoshenko's poor showing contrasts starkly with the Russian duo of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and Russian president Dmitry Medvedev, who remain amongst the most popular leaders in the world with approval ratings of 77% and 69% respectively.

The results should not surprise, as Ian Bremmer argued in his book "The J Curve" that countries transitioning from authoritarian regimes to liberal ones pass through a period of chaos - the bowl of the J - before the benefits of democracy make themselves felt. However, Bremmer also noted that not all countries survive this difficult period, as the collapse of Yugoslavia showed. Consequently, Ukraine is in a dangerous place now. Hopefully, the presidential elections slated for January next year will bring some more political stability, however, time is running out as the economy continues to deteriorate.

And the government in Kyiv could lose what little creditability it has left, as analysts are accusing it of cooking the national accounts in a cynical move to cover up the true state of the economy. According to Ukraine's State Treasury, the state budget revenues stood at 103.6% of the plan over the first seven months of this year and all the key budget institutions also reported 100%-plus results. Analysts in Kyiv point out these results are better than last year's and nigh-on impossible. "We believe that the government is continuously using creative accounting methods in order to demonstrate that the state budget is under control," says Oleksiy Blinov of Astrum Capital in Kyiv.

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