Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Ukraine- the unfinished revolution 

Watch Ukraine.

With its 47 million people, huge agricultural and natural resources, as well as its strategic position between Poland, Russia and the Black Sea, Ukraine is the second - after Russia - most important of the post-Soviet states.

Unbowed by the allegations of horrendous electoral fraud pointed out by all the Western observers, including the EU, the pro-Russian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich has been
declared elected the country's new president over pro-Western opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko.

The situation throughout Ukraine is precarious; on Monday there were 100,000 pro-Yushchenko protesters on the streets of capital Kiev, possibly another 100,000 throughout other Ukrainian cities. Yushchenko refuses to concede, and at least seven local government authorities are refusing to recognize the result. The exit polls gave Yushchenko the victory by a margin of 54% to 43%; the actual result as announced by the electoral commission was 49.42% to Yanukovich and 46.70% to Yushchenko. We know from the recent US election that exit polls are not necessarily accurate, but coupled with allegations of industrial-scale fraud, they throw the official result into serious doubt.

And it might get
even more heated: "Ukraine's security bodies, vowing to uphold the constitution, warned today they would put down any lawlessness 'quickly and firmly'." "Upholding the constitution" is a code-word for supporting the corrupt power structures that so far have prevented Ukraine from achieving its true potential. Polish press, geographically closest to the events is now asking: "Will the blood flow in Ukraine?"

The choice is clear: Yanukovich is an old guard politician, pro-Russian in his outlook and enjoying the open support of Vladimir Putin. He also favors increased state intervention in the economy (exactly what post-communist countries need). Yushchenko is a pro-Western reformist who wants to liberalize the economy and fight corruption.

Little discussed in the media is geographic split between the "red" and the "blue" part of Ukraine. The red (and I think we can safely return to the proper identification of that color with political left) Ukraine is the eastern part of the country, closer to Russia, Orthodox in its religious observance, and historically part of the Russian empire. The blue Ukraine is the western part, looking towards the West rather than Russia, Catholic or Uniate (Uniates have the Orthodox liturgy but they recognize the Pope as the head of the church), and historically part of the multi-national Polish Commonwealth. You can guess which part of Ukraine is the power base for which candidate.

Watch this space.


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