Thursday, September 08, 2005

Back in the U(kraine).S.S.R.

And in international news -- if I may turn away briefly from Katrina, Roberts, and Rehnquist -- there is yet more uncertainty in the Ukraine. You'll recall that last year's Orange Revolution toppled Moscow-friendly Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich after he was declared the winner of a rigged presidential runoff election held on November 21. Following mass protests and the rejection of the election results by the Supreme Court, his rival Viktor Yushchenko, poisoned and pockmarked, won a re-run election held on December 26, becoming the country's third president since independence in 1991. But now:

President Viktor A. Yushchenko of Ukraine dismissed his prime minister and the rest of the cabinet today as internal divisions and accusations of corruption splintered the political coalition that led last year's popular uprising against his predecessor's autocratic government...

Mr. Yushchenko, in somber remarks broadcast on national television, said he had acted to end internal struggles for power among those who organized what became known as the "Orange Revolution," when tens of thousands poured into the streets of Kiev to protest a fraudulent presidential election last fall...

It remains to be seen whether Mr. Yushchenko's action will staunch a slippage of popular support among Ukrainians, whose enthusiasm for his democratic, market-oriented reforms appears to have diminished because of inflation and signs of an economic slowdown, as well as the government's in-fighting...

Mr. Yushchenko referred poignantly and personally to the country's current state, citing the poisoning that disfigured his face on the eve of last year's election -- a crime that has yet to be solved...

"A year ago I ran for president not to see key state institutions struggling to find understanding and failing to find accord and mutual trust," he said. "That is not what I sought as I have been walking for a year with a face that is not mine."

Let's hope Yushchenko gets his government in order. Let's hope he lives up to the promise of the Orange Revolution.

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  • Let's face it--democracy is not inherently popular. It's popular only to the extent it can deliver a better life. If a strongman can deliver a better life, lots of people would be willing to support him.

    With all the talk about democratization around the globe, many people have grown disillusioned with democratic governments that have been unable to deliver a better quality of life. I think this is something to be concerned about. Democracy and market economies seemed attractive to countries where things were bad. But if they don't deliver, they will start looking bad as well. Look at Venezuela, where Hugo Chavez is not much different than Juan Peron and seems to be in the process of dismantling democratic institutions. But he is immensely popular with the poor anyway.

    People assume that democratization is unstoppable and cannot be reversed. I disagree--if democracy is perceived not to work, I fear that in a lot of countries, it will be back to autocracy. Who knows--maybe Ukraine will start pining for the days of the Soviet Union?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:29 AM  

  • Well, I'm sure many in the Ukraine are already pining for the Soviet Union, especially in the pro-Russian east. And Putin, of course, continues to stress the Ukraine's ties to Russia. What will be interesting to watch is whether Yushchenko is really a democrat or whether he simply used democracy, and the popular uprising, to secure power. He wouldn't be the first "democrat" to become a demagogue, after all, and it's often rather convenient to dispense with democracy, and the trappings thereof, once one's in power. I don't have a prediction, but I suspect that he'll at least continue the Ukraine's westernization, democratically or not, and that's precisely what the Ukraine needs.

    By Blogger Michael J.W. Stickings, at 9:49 AM  

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