Thursday, December 24, 2009

Attention to Ukrainian Presidential Election!

This summer, I talked of Russian pressure on Ukraine in view of the forthcoming presidential election in January. The election will be held on January 17, and the final result will be determined on January 27. Wikipedia shows an introduction to this election which will be helpful to understand basic points about it.

Among numerous candidates, President Viktor Yushchenko, Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, and pro-Russian opposition leader Viktor Yanukovych, are key focuses. According to the poll conducted by Research & Branding Group, Yanukovich and Tymoshemko lead, while Yushchenko is far behind both candidates. A Ukrainian journalist Tetyana Vysotska introduces each candidate on her blog with a brief biosketch (Who is who in Ukraine).

Since the Orange Revolution in 2004, Ukraine has been a showcase of successful Western styled democracy under the Yushchenko administration. The power of citizens and the rule of law rectified the fraud election, and Yushchenko was inaugurated as the president, instead of pro-Russian Yanukovich. It was a spectacular victory for the Bush administration that sponsored democratic movements during the revolution. Pro-Western Yushchenko administration started to bid the membership for NATO and the EU.

However, poor economic performance and a dispute over appointment of cabinet minister have split President Yushchenko and Prime Minister Tymoshenko. An American businessman, who runs an IT outsourcing company in Kiev, talks of the split within the administration concisely on his blog (Yushchenko, Tymoshenko Rivalry Emerges onto Public Stage”; Kiev Ukraine News Blog; February 16, 2008). In addition, as I previously quoted an article by Thomas Valasek, Director of Foreign Policy and Defence at the Centre for European Reform, Ukraine has not resolved domestic corruption since the collapse of the Soviet Union, and faces difficulty in transition to capitalism and democracy.

According to David Kramer, Senior Transatlantic Fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, the principal issue in this election is the economy as Ukrainian GDP is expected to fall 15% this year. While Yanukovich and Tymoshenko lead the poll, no candidates are likely to gain over 50% of votes, and the second round election will be held on February 7. Although Yanukoich courts Russia, the Kremlin strikes a balance between both leading candidates very carefully (“Ukraine’s Presidential Election: A Primer”; Focus on Ukraine; December 18, 2009).

Fair election is an important issue, as the 2004 fraud is too widely known. The result of this election will have significant implications to relations between Russia and the West, and Euro-Atlantic security. Furthermore, the consequence of the forthcoming election will place critical influence on democracy promotion in the former Soviet Union. In other words, post Berlin Wall world will be tested.

New Year will start turbulently. Keep an eye on this election. Finally, enjoy listening to Ukrainian national anthem by a top singer of this country Ruslana, who is the champion of the Eurovision Song Contest 2004, and supported the Orange Revolution. Watch the video.