Sunday, February 14, 2010

Post Election Ukraine in Turmoil as Expected

Prior to the presidential election in Ukraine, Sergei Molchanov at the Centre for Research on Globalization in Montreal of Canada warned that Ukraine would fall into turmoil after the election whoever wins (“Ukraine: Elections or Emergency Rule?”; Global Research; February 1, 2010). Things are going as he said.

It is a week since the election, but Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko still rejects to concede her opponent Viktor Yanukovich. Tymoshenko insists that over one million fraud votes had led Yanukovich to win this election. While Tymoshenko tells her supporters not to appeal for demonstrations on the street, she is exploring another Orange protest against Yanukovich. She says that some election monitors of the OSCE will support her at the court(”Premier Says Fraud Tainted Ukraine Vote”; New York Times; February 13, 2010).

Meanwhile, European monitors praised fair election, and American and European leaders, including US President Barack Obama, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, and EU President Herman Van Rompuy, congratulated the winner Yanukovich. As Rasmussen says, they explore strategic partnership with Russia and former Soviet republics, rather than “overstretching” to the east (“NATO, EU follow U.S., welcome Ukraine's Yanukovich”; Washington Post; February 12, 2010).

Nevertheless, Tymoshenko still claims fraud votes in this election. Previously, I quoted a commentary by Mark Medish, Visiting Scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, on this blog. Ukraine is a patchwork nation, lacking of political cohesion. Ethnic and regional divide is one of the reasons for messy disputes after the election. Also, Ukraine dos not have sufficient history as a sovereign nation state.

Let me review the article by Molchanov to understand the post-election confusion. Quoting a nationalist blogger’s comment, “I vote for Tymoshenko in the hope that either she wins and a pro-Russian criminal will not become our President or she loses by a minimal margin and take the case to court if not start fighting. Then the current President will have to disqualify both candidates and impose an emergency rule to avoid bloodshed”, Molchanov foresees two scenarios. The first is the introduction of emergency rule as Tymoshenko does not accept Yanukovich’s victory in the election. The second is uprising by Ukrainian nationalists and ethnic minorities like Cremian Tatars to support the coalition of outgoing President Yushchenko and unconceding Tymoshenko. I think that a destabilized Ukraine may lead to further clash between Russia and the West, which will ruin the Obama-Rasmussen initiatives for engagement.

Yanukovich said that his administration would admit Russia’s Black Sea Fleet to stay at Sevastpol base beyond 2017 withdrawal timetable signed under the Yushchenko administration (“Yanukovich says ready for Russian fleet, gas deals”; Reuters; February 13, 2010). Ukrainian nationalists will protest vehemently against continual Russian military presence in Ukrainian territory. Also, tensions between US bases in Romania and Bulgaria and Russian bases in Ukraine could be intensified.

Even if Tymoshenko concedes, it will be quite hard to soothe Ukrainian nationalists around Kiev and north western regions. Therefore, careful observation is necessary.