The Election in Ukraine
Before voters ever went to the polls in Ukraine last weekend, they had already won.
They had already shown themselves to be far more civilized and advanced than their Russian neighbors, for instance, because they had carried out a real election, ousting the current regime and replacing it with a radically different opposition candidate. They repudiated the sitting president long before the votes were counted, and we can only wonder: What sort of barbaric crimes would Vladimir Putin have to commit before Russian voters would do the same. Would he have to actually eat babies on TV? Would even that suffice. Russia, behaving like a nation in the dark ages, has never once ousted a regime in an election in its entire thousand-year history — not once, not ever.
Similarly, Ukraine is building a real economy, not relying on the accident of natural energy resources, and it is not attacking any of its neighbors in any way, but rather building solid relationships with Western nations that will last for centuries..
What’s more, as we reported in our last issue, Ukrainians have already made it clear that no matter who won, Ukraine would turn its back on Russia and look towards the West for its future prosperity and security.
So there was lots of good news, and Ukrainians have much to be proud of. With that said, Ukrainian voters sadly made the wrong choice on Sunday when they handed power to the charlatan Victor Yanukovich.
We’ve previously provided copious documentation that Yanukovich is not fit to govern Ukraine, but you don’t need to read any of it to understand why. Just peruse the brilliant essay by Nina Khrushcheva in today’s issue, and your stomach will turn.
This runoff should have been between Victor Yushchenko and Julia Tymoshenko, whose different visions for Ukraine were nonetheless both healthy and interesting. Ukrainian voters ought to have disqualified Yanukovich simply because of his malodorous resume, to say nothing of his disturbingly pro-Russian rhetoric on occasion. It is true that Yushchenko’s behavior in the past few years has left much to be desired; but like Mikheil Saakashvili in Georgia, Yushchenko has earned the benefit of many, many doubts. He has repeatedly laid his life on the line for his country, presiding over an economy besieged by Russian aggression designed to destabilize and return the country to a position of slave-like submission to Moscow. What’s more, the outrageous and craven failure of the Western democracies to stand up for Ukraine and push back Russian aggression, just as in Georgia, contributed mightily to his undoing.
It’s disappointing that Ukrainian voters could not see the serious danger that voting for Yanukovich poses. To be sure, his “victory” is a setback for democracy in Ukraine. However, it is very clear that Russia has bungled its Ukraine policy so badly that not even Yanukovich is much inclined to lean on Moscow, and his rival Julia Tymoshenko will continue to be his prime minister because there is no sign that he can create the coalition he needs in parliament to oust her. What’s more, it’s clear that Yanukovich only won because his predecessor chose to urge his supporters to vote “against all” rather than for his rival. Had that not occurred, it’s likely Yanukovich would not be president today. It was a divided adversary, not an overwhelming endorsement, that brought Yanukovich back to power. Yanukovich did not even manage to win a majority of the vote and his margin over Tymonshenko was razor thin, his support confined to limited geographical areas populated by Russian speakers. It was, in other words, no sort of mandate whatsoever for reintegration with Russia.
We are confident that voters of Ukraine will demand that Yanukovich follow their clear desire to enter the EU and NATO, and to avoid any possibility of slipping back under Russia’s thumb. Should he stray from that path, we are sure they will, unlike their craven Russian neighbors, rise up as they have done before and issue a correction. And we hope that when the see Yanukovich in action, they will realize they have made a mistake in choosing him and oust him at the next opportunity.
There has been some talk that Ms. Tymoshenko might challenge the results as fraudulent if she did not prevail. We advise against this. What needs to happen now is that the democratic forces take the election of Yanokovich as a warning sign and redouble their efforts to unify. The squabbles between Yushchenko and Tymoshenko over the past decade have undermined Ukraine’s journey towards democracy and its ability to qualify for NATO and EU membership. Tymoshenko, ego in check needs to do the hard work of building a real pro-democracy, pro-West coalition or step aside in favor of someone who will, and then that coalition should easily unseat Yanukovich and continue Ukraine’s development as a free, Western-looking democracy.