This article sets out to analyse recent regime developments in Ukraine in relation to semi-presidentialism. The article asks: to what extent and in what ways theoretical arguments against semi-presidentialism (premier-presidential and president-parliamentary systems) are relevant for understanding the changing directions of the Ukrainian regime since the 1990s? The article also reviews the by now overwhelming evidence suggesting that President Yanukovych is turning Ukraine into a more authoritarian hybrid regime and raises the question to what extent the president-parliamentary system might serve this end.
The article argues that both kinds of semi-presidentialism have, in different ways, exacerbated rather than mitigated institutional conflict and political stalemate. The return to the president-parliamentary system in 2010 – the constitutional arrangement with the most dismal record of democratisation – was a step in the wrong direction. The premierpresidential regime was by no means ideal, but it had at least two advantages. It weakened the presidential dominance and it explicitly anchored the survival of the government in parliament. The return to the 1996 constitution ties in well with the notion that President Viktor Yanukovych has embarked on an outright authoritarian path.