Protest performances inside parliament articulated claims to uphold democracy that contributed to the maintenance of pluralism in Ukraine during attempted authoritarian consolidation. Simultaneously, such protests were para-institutional instruments in the ongoing power struggle engendered by a patronal system where formal institutions and norms weakly constrain actors. A diverse repertoire of protest, including rostrum-blocking, visual protest, withdrawal, auditory disruption, somatic protest and the spectacle, was used frequently and was adapted in response to changes in the political opportunity structure. Innovations to the repertoire adapted performances from social movements. In recent years, violent altercations and theatrical protests in Ukraine’s parliament involving tens of deputies have attracted attentive publics to a wide range of issues from language use, imprisoned opposition politicians and deputies’ multiple voting violations, but such spectacular performances belie hundreds of routinised
deputies’ protests on procedural and policy matters. Both raise important questions about Ukraine’s political system and democratic practice1 more widely. How should we understand such protests, which are conducted by elected representatives that are already privileged in the system of power and have a range of formal legislative tools for protest at their disposal (Spary 2013), but choose instead to disrupt parliamentary proceedings? Why were such modes of behaviour so prevalent in Ukraine? What do the adaptation of distinctive types of protest reveal about the political system? Could such protests actually signify the vibrancy of democratic practice in Ukraine?
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