a Ph.D. in History, a senior research fellow at Department of Social and Political History of the I. Kuras Institute of Political and Ethnic Studies of the NAS of Ukraine
Decentralization and Regional Political Йlites (Exemplified by Vinnytsia Region)
The decentralization reform, which predetermines the devolution of a considerable part of the powers, resources and responsibility from the executive authorities to local self-government bodies is one of the most effective reforms in Ukraine. However, the analysis of the geographical structure of the United Territorial Communities creation demonstrates the disproportionality of the decentralization processes, which is most likely, caused by the peculiarities of social, political and economic development of each particular region, on the other hand – by the interests of regional political elites determining their position concerning to this reform.
It is revealed that Oblast State Administrations and Regional Councils are of a great significance in the creation of the United Territorial Communities. They can both promote and hinder the decentralization reform taking present authorities into consideration. According to the analysis of the regional political elites significance in the decentralization realization, there are three types of the regional leadership attitude to the reform: 1) constructive position (Dnipropetrovsk, Zhytomyr, Zaporizhzhia, Khmelnytskyi, Chernihiv oblasts); 2) passive resistance (Kyiv, Odesa, Vinnytsia and Cherkasy oblasts); 3) active resistance (Transcarpathian oblast).
Due to the position of the regional elite, the decentralization reform has started quite actively in Vinnytsia oblast. The Regional Council has approved the Long-term Plan for the formation of Communities Territories in Vinnytsia Oblast on June 24, 2015. It is planned to split the oblast into 106 UTC according to it. However, because of a number of faults, the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine has ratified only 27 out of 106 UTC approved by the Oblast Council. The Perspective Plan is sent for refinement. Vinnytsia Regional Council and Oblast State Administration have delayed the approval of the final version of the Perspective Plan for the United Communities Formation for a long time. Finally, in January, 2019 work on the document, envisaging the creation of 68 UTC, covering 100 % of the region territory, has been completed. However, because of the deputies’ different views on the UTC demarcation, the Oblast Council has approved the document only partially – 10 districts of the region out of 27 have not been included into the Plan. Therefore, on May, 2019, Vinnytsia Oblast is one of two regions of Ukraine without a Perspective Plan for the United Territorial Communities formation, covering the entire region territory.
The article author presents the facts the head of Vinnytsia Oblast State Administration V. Koroviy obstructs the UTC formation. In particular, it concerns to the Haisyn City UTC and the Vinnytsia district communities unification, etc. The possibility of forced communities integration announced by the head of the Oblast State Administration also evidences the position of the regional leadership.
Taking into account the fact that the reform results in the liquidation of District State Administrations and District Councils, and the local executive power comes to executive bodies formed by local councils, the resistance to community unification is observed not only at the level of oblast authorities, but also at the districts. Generally, the author has distinguished three approaches of district political elites to the decentralization reform: 1) promotion: 2) procrastination; 3) obstructing to the reform. There are several the most typical ways the heads of the DSA and heads / deputies of the District Councils counteract the UTC formation. These are: open agitation against the unification; collection of signs against communities unification; the pressure on the communities to be united in a format profitable for the district leadership; blocking the draft decisions of village councils; ignoring of the court injunctions; and the DSA financial pressure. Ukrainian analysts consider this resistance is not a political decision of the state level, however, in our opinion, the positions of the heads of OSA and DSA are influenced by the private support of the nationwide authoritative elites, interested in the preservation of the administrative influence on the territory. The author has presented a number of examples the district heads of the Vinnytsia oblast in Bar, Kalynivka, Mohyliv-Podilskyi, Tyvriv, Tomashpil, Illintsi, Trostianets, Lityn and other districts counteract the UTC formation.
During 2015–2016 Vinnytsia region has been one of the leaders in the decentralization reform. However, the reform decline has led to the oblast dropping from the 11th place in August, 2017 to the 23rd place in May, 2019 in the Oblasts Rating concerning the Formation of Competent Communities of the Ministry for Regional Development, Building and Housing of Ukraine. The regional elites, namely heads of OSA and DSA, heads and deputies of the district and oblast councils have played not the last role in this process. Their political behaviour, for the most, has been influenced by the fear of change – the reluctance to lose power and the ability to manage the budget flows and resources distribution. The main decision for Vinnytsia oblast, as well as for the other regions, is to enlarge the districts and introduce promptly the Prefect Institute, which allows to resist effectively the administrative pressure, which has hindered the initiatives of unification at the local level.
decentralization reform, regional political elite, United Territorial Communities (UTC), the Perspective Plan of the competent communities formation, Vinnytsia oblast, resistance to reforms.
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