Ukraine election rumbles on

Viktor Yanukovich has just been given leave to appeal the Ukrainian Supreme Court’s verdict that he had lost last year’s Presidential Election. 

The voluminous appeal lodged on Friday – and delivered in a minivan – urged the court to order a re-vote.

Mr Yushchenko cannot be sworn in until the court rules on all complaints.

Of course, Yanukovich is right – there were massive irregularities in the vote.  They may have been less than in the previous round, but they still happened.  They may have been mostly carried out by Yanukovich supporters, but plenty were carried out by Yushchenko supporters too, I’d bet. 

That won’t change the outcome of the elction, though.  There is simply, in reality, no way on earth that the Supreme Court will reverse its decision to award the election to Yushchenko.  Legal issues really aren’t important here – what matters is the relative power of both the people of Ukraine who are prepared to come out onto the streets, and the relative power of each candidate’s international backers.  And, on that score, Yushchenko is comfortably ahead.

Having said that, he isn’t so far ahead that he can sit back and relax.  Yanukovich still got around 44% of the December’s revote.  And those votes didn’t all come out of a stuffed ballot box.  People genuinely do want him as their President.  Many of them believe in him just as much as those who believe in Yushchenko.  Like Yushchenko supporters, they are prepared to come out onto the streets in large numbers and protest too – 8,000 people are currently protesting in the streets of Donetsk, and they’ve even set up their own tent city.

No, they can’t overturn the result of the election.  Yushchenko has won that.  But they can make life very difficult for him.  Without their co-operation he simply cannot govern large regions of Ukraine, whether he has the legal right to govern or not.  And that doesn’t bode well for the future of Ukraine as one state.

(Hat tip:  Publius Pundit for the news of protests in Donetsk).

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2 Responses

  1. Hektor Bim says:

    It’s very tiring to read these veiled threats of succession in Ukraine from Russians. The same people who get hysterical about Chechnya or even Abkhazia or the Kuriles are perfectly willing to openly discuss the dismemberment of Ukraine.

    After every normal democratic election (though I understand Russians have little experience with them), there are lots of people who supported the losing candidate who are frequently geographically concentrated. It is normal. What is not normal is to openly fantasize about obstructing the government of a neighboring state and to hint darkly of succession if you don’t get your (Russian ) way.

    Give it up. The candidate supported by the Russian state lost and lost decisively, despite the best efforts of Russian state power in all its forms. The least Russians could do at this point is be good losers and not openly welcome the dismemberment of another state.

  2. Andy says:

    Hektor,

    Firstly, I’d like to point out that I’m not Russian. I have lived there, and I have studied the region extensively but, while I love Russia, I am not blind to its faults. It has many. In particular, I do not support the Putin administration¬ís shift toward authoritarianism and its blatant attempts to repress democracy in its neighboring states. Not only do I believe it is morally wrong, but I believe that it is against Russia’s best interests. I do, however, believe that Russia does have legitimate interests in countries such as Ukraine, where there is a massive Russian diaspora. It is not a disinterested party, and it should not be expected to always hold opinions in agreement with the prevailing US or Western opinion.

    Secondly, I most definitely do not fantasize about obstructing the government of a sovereign state.

    In my post, I merely pointed out what I believe to be a major potential problem that Yushchenko’s government will face in administering Ukraine. No government can function without legitimacy, and legitimacy does not come purely from the ballot box. And Yushchenko lacks legitimacy among a large proportion of the population. At its root, it is a fear of a tyranny of the majority – in this case the majority being ethnic Ukrainians. Most of this fear is due to scaremongering by Russia, and Ukrainian Russian politicians, but the fear and the problems of lack of legitimacy that come with it still exist. We cannot just wish them away.

    Hopefully, though, this fear can be overcome. I believe that skilful government by the Yushchenko administration, combined with strong international support from both Russia and the West can succeed in allaying most people’s fears. I believe, and most strongly hope, that all the people of Ukraine can join together and build themselves a multi-ethnic state that is economically and democratically strong, and an example to others throughout the Former Soviet Union.

    However, skilful government and strong international support can never be taken for granted. Should Ukraine not benefit from them, it will struggle to escape the fear and paranoia that currently imprisons it. In this eventuality, the best case scenario would be a government that is too weak to impose its will on corruption in the East. And, unless it can fight corruption throughout Ukraine as a whole, it will never succeed in defeating it in it’s heartlands in the West. Ukrainians will begin to wonder why they voted for a government that could not stem corruption and may well turn their backs on the Orange Revolution. The worst case scenario, which I happily believe is relatively unlikely to arrive, is an escalation of tensions into violent ethnic conflict of the kind which former Soviet states such as Moldova have yet to recover from.

    I personally am not hung up on the idea that current state borders are sacrosanct. National and state boundaries have changed countless times throughout history. States have spit into two (or more) new states on many occasions. This usually happens violently, though; dissolutions like that in Czechoslovakia are very much in the minority. Because of this, it is never foolish to point out the dangers that face a state. By recognising early signs of tensions we can take steps to address them before they take on a life of their own. It is, however, inappropriate and even dangerous, to over-emphasise them, and it is certainly not acceptable to inflame those tensions.

    On balance, I think that the tensions which currently exist in Ukraine are serious enough to warrant attention. They do have the potential to spiral out of control and so we must be wary of the situation, and open to all options. Thankfully, I believe that the Yushchenko administration is aware enough to take steps to reassure the Russian minority, and that Ukraine will flourish over the coming years as a democratic, unified state.