In the current process of societal modernization and transformation of the political system of Ukraine, one of the most important challenges facing the country is the formation of an effective system of local self-government. If such an institution is not developed and strengthened, there can be no discussion about the establishment of democratic, social government, the development of the rule of law, or the expansion of the infrastructure of civil society.
According to Ukraine's constitution, local government bodies are chosen by the citizens of the country through direct, free, and open elections (Article 141). On 31 March 2002, our country held its third round of local elections since becoming independent. Using the elections for the city council of Nikolayev as an example, I will compare the results of the most recent local government elections with the results of the elections that took place in 1994 and 1998. (1)
The first point worth noting is the explosion of political activity among citizens. In 1994, 236 candidates ran for office. By 1998 the number of candidates increased 3.6 times to 859, and in 2002 a total of 991 people ran for ninety seats on the council. Over the course of eight years, the number of candidates per seat has increased from three to eleven. On one hand, the sharp increase in the number of people interested in becoming delegates to the city council indicates that the political and economic importance of this governing body is increasing, and that candidates understand that their personal influence in solving the city's problems would increase substantially were they to be elected. On the other hand, it is possible that this upsurge in political activity is connected with the understandable desire of some citizens to try their hands at a political campaign and gain practical experience for the elections in 2006. Additionally, it is possible that the increase in the number of candidates is caused by competition between parties to get as many representatives as possible into local government bodies.
The most active participants in the council race were the following parties and blocs: "For a United Ukraine!" which ran 130 candidates (13.2 percent); the Social Democratic Party of Ukraine (United), with seventy-five candidates (7.6 percent); and the Communist Party of Ukraine, with fifty-nine candidates (6 percent). At the same time, the parties of the right demonstrated yet again that they have essentially no presence in southern Ukraine. Despite the presence of the all-Ukrainian "Bat'kivshchina" Union, a fairly large partisan organization, the Yulia Timoshenko Bloc was able to run only thirty-seven candidates (3.7 percent), and the twenty-one candidates (2.1 percent) put forward by "Our Ukraine" were only a "drop in the ocean." In total, 46.2 percent of all candidates in the council election were affiliated with political parties or blocs, an increase of 27.2 percent over the number of partisan candidates from 1994.
In regard to the age distribution of candidates, the 2002 elections saw the largest representation yet of people between the ages of forty-one and fifty, among both those who ran and those who were elected. As a rule, people at this age have solid convictions and substantial professional and life experience. They are free from the immature maximalist instincts of youth but are not yet burdened with the problems of old age. However, it is also important to note that over the past eight years the number of young people who participated in the elections has increased. In 1994 not a single candidate between eighteen and twenty years old ran for city council, and in 2002 six candidates fell into this age group. Although none of the young candidates was elected, the practical skills that they gained from running will likely help them in the next election.
An analysis of the data presented in table 1 shows that between 1994 and 2002 the number of candidates between twenty-one and thirty years old also increased. …