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    Thursday, August 16, 2007

    Ukrainian déjà-vu


    Another Ukrainian election campaign, another farce.

    The Central Election Commission - perhaps Ukraine's least-respected institution after being caught aiding Viktor Yanukovich's attempted theft of the 2004 presidential elections - started the 2007 parliamentary campaign in ignominious style last week by refusing register candidates from Bloc Yulia Tymoshenko.

    Their reasoning was as scurrilous as anything offered up three years ago: Tymoshenko's slate of candidates, the CEC said, was illegitimate because while they had submitted the names of their home towns to the registrars, they hadn't given their actual street addresses. It somehow escaped the noble commission's attention that BYuT had registered its candidates the exact same way during last year's parliamentary elections and nobody saw a problem then.

    While the CEC yesterday backed down from its decision and registered BYuT - which polls suggest is the No. 1 contender to Yanukovich's front-running Party of Regions - the early chicanery doesn't exactly inspire hopes that this will be a free and fair election. Instead, it's looking more and more likely that the 2007 parliamentary elections will be a carbon copy of the 2004 presidential vote - a tooth-and-nails, anything-goes struggle for power between the Kremlin-backed Yanukovich and the Western-friendly team of Tymoshenko and President Viktor Yushchenko, whose Our Ukraine movement is currently running third.

    (A recent poll by the Socioizmerenie research centre suggested that the Party of Regions had 26.3 per cent of the vote, compared to 21.4 for BYut and 14.1 for Our Ukraine. The Communist Party, which usually lines up with the pro-Kremlin Yanukovich, trailed at 4.7 per cent.)

    As Nina Khrushcheva wrote in a column that appeared in Lebanon's Daily Star newspaper, we could be heading for an Orange Revolution re-run:

    By seeking to cling to power by hook or by crook, Yanukovich is likely to bring on the deluge. In Ukraine that means not only violent unrest, but economic decline and renewed repression. At the end of the day it could lead to the sort of huge street protests that marked the Orange Revolution, and their attempted violent suppression. Recent history is replete with alarming examples of dictators and would-be dictators who refuse to recognise when their time has run out.


    The truth is that both sides - the pro-Kremlin bloc and the off-again, on-again Yushchenko-Tymoshenko alliance - have the support of about 30 per cent of the public, which is the reason neither group has been able to vanquish the other during a decade of political quarrelling. The hundreds of millions of dollars spent by the Kremlin and the White House in recent years to promote their favoured candidates has done little to solve the perpetual gridlock.

    The elections, I'll be so bold as to predict now, won't be decided at the ballot box on Sept. 30, but in the streets of Kyiv in the days that follow.

    The people I truly feel sad for are the 40 per cent of Ukrainians who are caught in the middle, badly disillusioned with both sides and fed up with the disputed elections and street theatre that have kept the country captive almost since the day it won independence 16 years ago.

    But with Moscow and Washington now openly antagonistic towards each other, Ukraine looks doomed once more to serve as their battleground.

    7 comments:

    pumpernickel said...

    Mark,

    You may want to do a bit about the Yanukovych sponsored changes to election observation rules. As well, note that Russia is training hundreds of people from neighbouring rayony to be observers.

    pumpernickel

    Michael Averko said...

    Tymoshenko's party getting away with a prior incorrect filing doesn't mean that such an improper procedure should happen again. In any event, her party will be participating in the upcoming vote.

    Regarding the Khrushcheva article:

    More like an ongoing political tug of war in Ukraine among the leading parties. Contrary to the article, there were dubious election tactics committed by Orange supporters during the last Ukrainian presidential election in 2004. CIS observers weren't the only source who noted this. I can also cite one each from Britain and Israel, while noting the overt pro-Orange bias of Canadian monitors during that process. Poland's objectivity during that period was also slanted. Before the presidential vote, Orange officials made trips to Poland, with Warsaw showing a preference for that Ukrainian grouping. During the organized pro-Orange street throng in Kiev of late 2004, Polish and Georgian flags were visible unlike Russian ones. When was Kiev's population more pro-Polish than pro-Russian?

    The article's emphasis on where to apply Ukrainian democracy is noteworthy. The Orange side sought to make NATO membership a presidential decree as opposed to a referendum. Yulia Tymoshenko's dubious oligarch background is glossed over.

    Immediately after the last Ukrainian presidential election, it was fashionable to predict the political end of Ukrainian Blue leader Viktor Yanukovych. His resurgence in the March 2006 Rada (parliament) vote was the partial result of Orange corruption, as shown by how one of its leading officials resigned his post, saying that the political situation was as bad, if not worse, than during the Kuchma years.

    The above hyper-linked article puts the onus on Russia to influence Yanukovych into making himself more amenable to his foes like Tymoshenko. Why should Russia assist Tymoshenko, who of late hasn't been so sympathetic towards Russia? A number of Western and Russian observers have smartly taken a more standoffish approach when dealing with Ukrainian affairs.

    Trusting Tymoshenko is a questionable move. In the not so Russia leaning Western Ukraine, her party finished behind Yushchenko's in the 2006 Rada vote. There was ample reason for that result. Depending on the given situation, she will change her direction. Seeking to broaden her base, she stated these overtures right after the 2004 presidential election:
    - Lauding Putin for curtailing the role of oligarchs in Russian government
    - Supporting a joint Russian-Ukrainian entry into NATO

    The not too past shows that Western and Eastern Ukraine haven't exactly embraced her.

    Throughout Ukraine, there appears to be an enhanced disgust with all of the major players in Ukrainian politics. Is Putin more popular in Ukraine when compared to Yushchenko's popularity in Russia? Between Russia and Ukraine, which of the two has the greater political influence of oligarchs?

    -----------------------------------

    On racism in Russia, in parts of New York City and Long Island, Blacks can expect to be either roughed up at most or non-violently unwelcome.

    NYC is the not too distant scene of violently bigoted acts against Abner Louima (by the NYPD) and Yankel Rosenbaum (by youths).

    In Russia, mosques are being built as 90% ethnic Slovenian Slovenia has a problem building one mosque in its capital where none exist.

    Russia is a country encompassing many different ethnic groups. Some of Russia's greatest heroes are those of non-Russian background.

    Michael Averko said...

    The last set of comments meant for the post following this one.

    markmac said...

    I'm in full agreement (oddly) with both of you. The "election observers" - and the money - sent to Ukraine by Russia and the West in 2004 were there less to protect the integrity of the election than they were there to fight for their man.

    The Canadian and Western election observers made plain that they were Yushchenko supporters, and many went straight from "observing" the election to taking part in the uprising on Maidan. The Russian ones were there with instructions to see no evil. (If you want to see all the evidence, you gotta plunk down cash for my book at amazon.com!)

    I'd venture that the same partisan games will be replayed again this fall. There's a lot at stake: Ukraine is the chief battleground in The New Cold War.

    Michael Averko said...

    Glad to know that Mark because I found your post to be overly supportive of Nina Khrushcheva's skewed article.

    BTW, the Orange side in Ukraine has curtailed the right of Pridnestrovie's (Trans-Dniester's) Ukrainian citizenry the right to vote in the upcoming Ukrainian election. Previously, they were allowed to vote. Pridnestrovie's Ukrainian citizenry overwhelmingly vote Blue.

    Where're the Nina Khrushcheva articles blasting that?

    As the gross double standards linger on.

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