Ukraine: Kuchma backs new elections

Reuters (and the BBC, presumably based on that report) say that outgoing President Kuchma now supports the idea of new elections in Ukraine. However, there’s no word on whether he’s accepted Yuschenko’s full conditions for a revote – no absentee ballots and a new, independent CEC – in his statement.

Update: It appears he hasn’t accepted the Yuschenko conditions, and the call is for an entirely new election – not just a rerun of the runoff, but the whole electoral process. SCSU Scholars have more:

My Ukrainian student is listening to news reports and says this is not a real offer, that Kuchma is not only offering to redo the second round but the first as well. This could take 180 days. This is exactly the scenario I thought may happen — Kuchma doesn’t want Yanukovych as much as he wants himself to be president. If he can buy six months, he has found his ideal solution.

My student also reports Yushchenko has refused this offer and is holding out for the Supreme Court decision.

Orange in Berlin

Not just orange, but all the colors of the Ukrainian election, analyzed and discussed by top experts.

The Friedrich Ebert Foundation, the Center for Applied Policy Research and the German-Ukrainian Forum are hosting a day-long seminar on the election on Tuesday Monday, December 6 at the Ebert Fondation’s home in Berlin. Logistical details are here (pdf file, in German).

The program was planned even before the first round, so it’s not sheer luck that they’ve got such good people to talk about the events in Ukraine.
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Meanwhile and elsewhere

I’m sure Doug will have more to say about this, but the early results from the Romanian elections show it as being a lot closer that expected, with a run-off (between Nastase and Basescu) expected for the Presidency.

And the next French Presidential election may be three years away, but it’s already hotting up with the ‘coronation’ at the weekend of former Finance Minister Nicholas Sarkozy as leader of the ruling UMP (Union for a Popular Movement) party. This Guardian leader highlights a potential parallel with the last US elections, with the Democrats’ search for the ABB (Anyone But Bush) candidate mirrored by the Elysee Palace’s search for the TSS (Tout Sauf Sarkozy – anyone but Sarkozy) candidate which may, of course, be Jacques Chirac seeking a third term and his personal dream of occupying the Elysee for longer than Mitterrand.

Enter The People. Why We Are Wearing Orange.

It is getting colder in Kyiv, so it may not be too surprising both camps are busy fueling the flames of their conflict. In a country eagerly awaiting its Supreme Court’s decision about the validity of last week’s Presidential election, the second week of popular protests in Kyiev begins with the incumbent president Kuchma’s threat to enforce martial law, and more secessionist motions passed by Eastern regional assemblies/authorities, which, although likely a consequence of oligarchic pressures and thus questionable true popular support, have caught the attention of the Yushenko campaign – as Scott’s post below indicates. In many ways, things could take an ugly turn soon.

Given the growing awareness that Mr Yushenko is a politician with oligarchic friends of his own, who is making, as the Kyiv Post stated on Saturday, “a multi-faceted attempt to take power”, and not a saint, I think it is appropriate to explain exactly what we want to express by wearing orange these days: orange is, after all, Mr Yushenko’s campaign color. But then, it seems, orange is no longer just his campaign color.

Former US National Security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski stated last Thursday, in a roundtable discussion, hastily arranged by the American Enterprise Institute, that we witness “the meeting of Ukrainian nationalism with Ukrainian democracy on a popular basis”. Well, nationalism clearly has its role, and not unexpectedly in a country featuring such a motley collection of salient cleavages. Yet for all I hear, I do not get the impression that the nationalism exhibited by the crowds peacefully demonstrating for Yushenko is of divisive, ethnically exclusive nature – while the Yanukovich camp apparently scared ethnic Russian voters in the East. Arguing that the Kuchma administration has talked up ethnic tensions to be able to act as mediator, Tarik Amar writes in a very informative, long primer at John Quiginn’s

“[c]rucially, even in round one the opposition managed to win all Ukrainian regions in the West as well as the Centre of the country, including ? by a large margin ? the largely Russiophone capital city Kyiv. The government has always liked to pretend that the opposition?s base was restricted to the Ukrainophone West, implying that it was ?nationalist?, even ?separatist.? Some Western observers still cling to these facile stereotypes. It is Yanukovych who has been cornered in a minority of eastern oblasts. If anybody represents an above-regional Ukrainian solidarity, it is clearly Yushchenko. He speaks proper Russian as well as Ukrainian and his being a native of one of Ukraine?s most eastern oblasts and having spent his student and working life in western as well as central Ukraine cannot be matched by Yanukovych, whose biography is strictly mono-regional and whose Ukrainian is not perfect.”

So I think Mr Brzezinski’s statement is by and large correct about the nature of what’s going on. And while most Ukrainians as well as political analysts will probably have agreed even before last week that this election was a crucial event for Ukraine, I think everyone has been surprised by the hundreds of thousands of people who have turned the election into a plebiscite about the kind of society they want to live in. Let me again quote Tarik Amar –

Even if some Western minds jaded by overfeeding on ?Civil Society? rhetoric may find it old hat, for Ukraine things are at stake that were achieved in Poland in 1989: essential respect for the law and the sovereign people, pluralism, and, indeed, freedom from fear. Ukraine is facing a choice not between different policies or regions but between mutually exclusive political cultures. Without undue idealization, the opposition stands for a reasonable understanding of rules, laws, and good faith in observing them.

Wearing orange is – now – essentially about aspiring to a different standard of governance. Yet I am not as certain about the prospects of Ukrainian civil society as Mr Brzezinski, who believes it would survive even a failure of the current stand-off. I am worried by the failed 1953 East-German uprising – it’s (bloody) failure led to widespread decades-long political apathy. Despite all efforts by political activists from inside (and outside) Ukraine, Ukrainian civil society must still be weak. Thus, as every little thing may count, we have decided to display a few additional orange bits to show our support for all those in Kyiv who are aspiring – and freezing.

One more thing. Over the last few days, some reports have led to not unreasonable suspicions about a renewed confrontation between Russia and “the West” about Ukraine, including some about several Western, particularly American, governmental as well as non-governmental organisations having “meddled” with the Ukrainian elections, particularly by funding grassroots protest-organisations like the student movement PORA.

Yet “meddling” is a matter of degree – a week before the second round of the elections, the Cato Institute’s Doug Bandow quoted a Russian political consultant with the so-called “Russian club”, Sergei Markov, using the American grassroots support to justify the – far more extensive – Russian involvement in Ukraine –

“[l]ook at what the U.S. is doing here – supporting foundations, analytical centers, round tables. It’s how contemporary foreign policy is pursued. And it’s exactly what we’re doing.”

I would never claim that “the West” or any of its constiuent parts would be above the use of electoral manipulation; particularly, in situations where it had a clear idea where it wants to go and what to expect, how to direct, and what to achieve through any political movement.

Yet, as opposed to Russia, whose motives with respect to Ukraine are clear – if there is one truth about the American and European involvement in Ukraine, I think it would be that there is no strategy, simply because there isn’t a monolithic or even prevailing view of Russia anymore. Absent any real strategy, Western support is likely to have actually achieved what it was supposed to achieve: create process awareness.

It was the latter that brought the people to the streets, not some handbook of popular opposition, pollsters, political consultants, or stickers paid for with money from Washington or Brussels. And that is one more reason to wear the ribbon.
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One Week Later

It’s strange to think that it’s only a week since Ukraine exploded into the world’s attention. It’s also pretty incredible to think that for most of that week temperatures in Ukraine have been around and (mostly) below freezing, yet so much of this has been made on the streets.

One thing that’s been true thtorughout the crisis is that we’ve had a lot of false climaxes – times when we thought everything was building up to a resolution of some sort – either good or bad – yet someone, somewhere, stepped back from the line and everything continued. Today could be yet another of those, with everyone waiting for the Supreme Court to decide on Yuschenko’s appeal, yet news reports over the weekend indicated that this isn’t simply one case, but a lot of little cases grouped together, each relating to a different charge of electoral fraud with the potential of there being a ruling due on each separate case. We could be here for the long haul waiting for them.

Another new news source for you – Obozrevatel has begun an English language site (via Neeka, who has a few updates of her own) while the Guardian pulls its head out of its own backside and prints a good comment piece from Nick Paton Walsh, who’s actually in Kiev.

There’s a comment I saw when I was looking through blogs – and I now can’t remember where I read it – that said the media outside Ukraine are being a lot more sceptical and pessimistic than comments from within the country, both from professional media and bloggers. It is certainly something I’ve noticed and seems to be heightened today with the secessionist threats of the east (and Yuschenko’s response) getting more attention outside than inside. As I’ve said before (and as Jon Edelstein noted in the comments on Scott’s post below) I think this is as much a negotiating ploy as a threat, using the ‘we’ll take our ball home if we can’t play with it’ argument. The problem for the secessionists is that they’re trying to push the issue too far, too fast (such as Donetsk’s threat to hold a referendum on the issue on this coming Sunday) to even pretend to be having a proper, democratic debate on the subject and thus losing the chance of there being any international recognition of their actions – outside parts of the CIS, anyway.

And the quick runround of the latest – there’s far too much new stuff on Le Sabot to link to it all, but his views on anti-semitism and the opposition are worth reading if you don’t have the time to look at everything, Foreign Notes looks at possible outcomes, the Kyiv Post remains as one of the best news sites for the crisis at present, there’s a roundup from the SCSU Scholars, and more reports from Orange Ukraine, Obdymok is at a slightly new location, Registan looks at the effect the events in Ukraine may have in the Central Asian republics and I have to link to this Dan Drezner post just for its description of John Laughland’s British Helsinki Human Rights Group:

Basically, BHHRG is what would exist if a cartoon version of Edmund Burke were divined into existence and asked to monitor elections in regions outside Western Christendom.

More later, when we should have heard something from the Supreme Court.

Just a quick Update: An interesting article from the Chicago Sun-Times about a Chicago judge’s experience of acting as an election observer: “I’ve seen Chicago elections, but that was shocking.
The Yorkshire Ranter also looks at the emergence of the protest movements, and points out that they’re not an ‘American creation’ as some have alleged, but can trace their lineage back to Solidarity and others.

Remember back in the days when uh

The wayback machine is a marvellous thing. It can serve a more useful purpose than letting you see the 1996 Yahoo front page. There are a lot of bloggers whose archives or old sites are gone, by design or accident. What they and their readers may not realize is that their sites are probably preserved by the Internet archive.

Pre-scoop Tacitus

Matthew Yglesias has lost most of his archives.

The old pre-scoop MyDD

Eric Alterman He never had any archives in the first place. (Update: all but the latest of these only gives you ‘redirect error’.)

Marshall Whitman aka the Bull Moose’s first blog

Kevin Drum’s old Calpundit site which seems to’ve gone down just this week, maybe temporarily?

They don’t just archive the front pages so in most cases you can most easily get all writings by clicking on the blogs’ monthly archives.

I was overjoyed to see that Yglesias’ stuff wasn’t lost, and if calpundit really is gone, I’ll be extremely grateful I can still read it. It seems blogs mean curiously much to me.

Momentum

As I discussed in my post yesterday, one of the strengths of Yuschenko’s campaign has been the way he’s created the positive impression that he’s going to be President which has made it easy for people to rally to him, not just making every day’s protest bigger than the last but also in the way he’s created a parallel authority and obtained the support of the instruments of the state (diplomats, police, armed forces etc). See this Kyiv Post article for more analysis of the same issue.

This is what makes the vote in the Ukrainian Parliament today important. Earlier in the week, Yuschenko’s supporters in Parliament tried to get a vote on the same issue, but as a quorum of deputies wasn’t present (only 191 turned up, when 226 of the 450 deputies were needed) no vote was taken – though Yuschenko did make his symbolic oath to be President. Today, though, he was able to get the independent members (as well as some defectors from Yanukovich’s supporters) to back him which meant – even though Parliament’s decisions have no effect without President Kuchma’s signature – they could get the symbolic decision of a majority of the deputies overturning the election result. It’s another piece of legitimacy for Yuschenko, and it also shows how he’s maintaining his momentum and picking up new support.

Elsewhere, there’s another new Ukrainian blog at Orange Ukraine, lots more pictures and analysis at Le Sabot, Neeka has more hopeful posts (as she says: “It’s hard to believe but it does look like this country will not have a civil war anytime soon, despite some people’s fears and other people’s hopes.“) and lots more pictures, Foreign Notes discusses ‘my mother-in-law, revolutionary’, SCSU Scholars have a report from an election monitor in Donetsk and Daniel Drezner has a good round up of the news.

Meanwhile, in Romania

One country over from the Ukraine, Romania is also about to have elections. Election day is tomorrow, Sunday the 28th.

Romania is a sort of borderland right now. It joined NATO last year, and it’s an EU candidate member, with full membership scheduled (at the moment) in 2007. The economy has been growing briskly, and foreign investment is rising rapidly (albeit from a very low base).

But the country is still desperately poor — per capita income, even adjusted for the lower cost of living, is less than a third of the EU average. Corruption is still pervasive. Political life is still dominated by the old Communist nomenklatura.

So whether Romania is doing well or badly is very much a relative question. Compared to, say, Hungary or Poland, they’re very much the poor Eastern cousins. Compared to Ukraine, never mind Belarus or Moldova, though, Romania is an economic and political success story.

And then there are these elections. Let me start with an obvious question: could the Romanian elections be stolen, in the same way that the Ukrainian elections have been? Will the incumbent government allow its candidates to lose?
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Raise Your Hand If You’re Sick Of Hearing “Old Europe” and “New Europe”

Glenn Reynolds made the following observation: “Well, New Europe has done pretty well on this front, with active and vigorous support [of the Ukrainian protestors] from Poland, Lithuania, and the Czechs. Old Europe, not so much.”

This is glib. Poland is indeed taking the lead in negotiating a solution — no surprise, since they’re right next door — but is there any basis for saying the protestors don’t enjoy much support from “Old Europe”?
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