Ukraine elections invalid?

According to a ‘news alert’ headline at the New York Times from four minutes ago (08.14 EST), Ukraine’s parliament has declared the election results invalid.

Nothing more at the NYT site (registration generally required, but you should be able to see the front page without it); it’s just the headline. Updates to follow as available.

Update (14.35 CET): Reuters reports that what the parliament has done is vote no confidence in the Central Election Commission, which a ‘large majority’ declared ‘had failed to fulfil its duties under Ukraine’s constitution and laws’.

Update (14.44 CET): Parliament’s resolution went a bit farther than that, actually, according to a brief Reuters report on the NYT site (reg. req.): it also expressly declared that the election was ‘invalid, subject to many irregularities and failed to reflect voters’ intentions.’

Update (15.39 CET): Well, maybe the election results are invalid. According to AP, parliament’s resolution will have legal force only if it receives President Kuchma’s assent. There’s a wild card still to be played, then. [Post title augmented to reflect uncertainty, though with hope the question mark may soon come back off.]

Into the weekend

As the Ukrainian crisis heads into its sixth day, time for another roundup.

First, I’ve found another Ukrainian news portal in English – Ukraine Now – which is covering other news out of the country as well as the crisis. On the blogs, Le Sabot has more photos and continues his fascinating background series on the election. There are several new posts on Foreign Notes, including an interesting analysis of Putin’s motives. Lobowalk has lots of stuff as well, including a story that reminded me of the opening pages of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to The Galaxy as police take a break because the protestors promise not to do anything while they’re away. Crooked Timber’s John Quiggin has an interesting article and more background by academic Tarik Ari. Meanwhile, Neeka’s up and has a photo of an amiable discussion between two men from different sides.

Neeka does mention trouble in Kharkiv, and it does seem that things aren’t quite as peaceful in other parts of the country – though there don’t seem to be any serious problems yet. The Financial Times reports that tear gas was used – once – in Chernihiv, while Maidan has reports of rising tempers in Kharkiv.

Scanning headlines in Google News, there appears to be no consensus amongst reporters as to the effect of yesterday’s talks. Some stress the importance of both candidates urging their supporters to reject violence, while others worry that the lack of agreement heralds the beginnings of a descent into chaos. I’m – as I have been for most of the week – in the optimist camp on this one, as I think what’s most important is that they’ve agreed to continue talking as a task force, even if nothing much else was agreed. Both sides are still waiting for the Supreme Court’s ruling on Monday before committing to anything, I think, though of course the Parliament could have an impact before then.

More thoughts from me below the fold.
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Elections Or Active Actions.

Tanya at The Periscope is providing a translation of a Ukrayinska Pravda article explaining that both parties appear to sense Mr Yukshenko’s momentum and accordingly presented antithetic proposals at yesterday’s negotiations (of which Euronews offers some realvideo footage)

Mr Yanukovych allegedly offered an investigation into the fraud alligations, which, according to a statement by Mr Yushchenko, would last “till the end of our days!” In contrast, the Yushenko camp is unlikely to accept any task force proposal short of a well-monitored full scale re-election on December 12.

Further conditions outlined by Mr Yushenko allegedly included a law prohibiting the use of additional voting coupons (which allowed people to vote numerous times in the last run-off and were allegedly used heavily by the Yanukovych campaign), the dismissal of the current Central Election Committee and formation of a new one based on equal representation, as well as equal access of the candidates to the mass media, and a refusal to use administrative resources.

Mr Yushenko knows that exhaustion and the weather are playing against him and added that if a solution is not found in one, two days, and “[i]f Yanukovych aims to wear out the strength and draw out the time, we come to the active actions straight away”.

Nothing in the article specifies what he referred to by “active actions” – or what the original term was – and both men have reiterated their committment to a non-violent solution. Yet this statement can hardly not be interpreted as a thinly veiled threat to at least continue to establish parallel governmental structures.

Task Force.

While three hours of negotiation between the parties and the European mediators have – not unexpectedly – not produced an immediate resolution of the Ukrainian crisis, there are reports of some progress (Kyiv Post, tagesschau.de). Mr Yushenko and Yanukovych reportedly agreed to form a joint task force to peacefully end the constitutional crisis. The task force is supposed to start working immediately. Most importantly, given reports about military movements in Kyiv, both contenders once more denounced the use of violence.

Update: (Nick 2355 CET) Le Sabot has news of the results of the talks:

I haven’t been able to get full confirmation for these points, but from what I understand, Yushchenko has announced his support for new elections. This comes with three non-negotiable provisos:

1. A new Central Election Commission composed of half Opposition and half “Parties of Power” members.

2. A ban on absentee ballots.

3. Equal television coverage of both candidates during the intervening period.

The date I’ve heard is for two weeks hence. Word is that if these very basic requirements aren’t met, we go back to protesting. I’ll have fuller information tomorrow morning on this when I can talk to the right people.

The word is that the crowd in Independence Square weren’t initially impressed by the news, but after listening to Yuschenko they’re ‘guardedly supportive’. I’ll update with more when I get it.

Update: (Tobias, 0:33 CET): Via the email list archive of the American Association for Ukrainian Studies I find “[t]his page [that] was created to collect and publish a photographic record of these events from all over Ukraine and from abroad and to provide an opportunity for Ukrainians and other interested parties to witness history with their own eyes, rather than through the dry language of newspapers and mass media.

Interestingly, in addition to the orange wave, there are also pictures from Yanukovych rallies.

Update: (Tobias 1:00 CET) I tried to compile a cartogram about the regional vote/turnout distribution in Ukraine, like the ones we’ve seen with respect to the US election, using free cartogram software but I wasn’t able to find free digital map data that included the administrative units of Ukraine. So I will just link to the maps at SCSU scholars that gave me the idea. I don’t think there is a problem of credibility, but it should be noted that map illustrating the turnout differences has been supplied by the Yushenko camp.

Update: (Nick 0209 CET) It seems that me and Tobias tried to update at the same time, and my update lost out in the battle. However, mine included the SCSU link as well, so we avoided duplication.

Anyway, Reuters confirm that Yuschenko is calling for a revote and notes that Solana says that option is still on the table for the task force meeting tomorrow. In the context of this, it’s worth noting that we’re still waiting for the Supreme Court ruling (expected Monday) and a special session of Parliament tomorrow. As Jon Edelstein (who found an English-language version of Ukraine’s Constitution) notes, it’s the Parliament, not the Court, that has authority over elections, as we saw with the attempt at a no confidence vote in the CEC on Tuesday.

A Carnival of Hope

Maybe, just maybe, this will work out right. Positive signs abound. No major violence, police units going over to the people’s side, order among the throngs, volunteers bringing food, boots, whatever the people in the demonstrations need. Crowds in Kiev still in the hundreds of thousands. Miners in thrall to the government few and far between. Rumor and tension, of course, but songs, too, festivities.

If it works out, these are the days that Ukrainians will look back on and say Yes we can. We did.

Even here in Munich, a Ukrainian I know — one from Kharkiv, in the east, and a Russian speaker — said today, “Since 1991, Ukraine has been asleep. But now. My people. Awake.”

And if it goes well, what next?
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Ukraine digest

I’ve created a Kinja digest of blogs and websites that are covering the events in Ukraine. Should be very useful.

Update: You might want to use the “collapsed” version to get a sampling of all the blogs.

You’re welcome to suggest more sites.

Update: (Tobias, 18:11 CET) – Amidst rumors about audiotapes that allegedly prove the election fraud being released to journalists, conflicting news about regional authorities/assemblies in Eastern Ukraine demanding autonomy or secession, reports about more support for the Yushenko camp in the East (via Victor Katolyk) and first sightings of orange in Moscow (Maidan.net), there is no news about the roundtable talks between the parties and the European mediators, except a statement from incumbent President Kuchma urging protesters to go home now that negotiations will be held.

CNN has a recent summary of the events online.

Update (Tobias 18:45, CET) . The Kyiv Post has two Ukrainian political analysts assessing the situaion. Denis Trifonov, a defense consultant wih the Kyiv-based International Centre for Policy Studies blames Putin’s paleo-conservative, cold-war-minded advisors for the Russian President’s serious error of judgment –

“President Vladimir Putin should have seen it coming, but he evidently did not … The long-term damage to Ukraine’s relations with Russia has been done … and few in Moscow have grasped just how much real influence Russia has lost in Kyiv as a result of her clumsy and irrational policy.”

Interestingly, according to the article, after claiming that only fraudulent exit polls funded by the West led to the outbreak of protest, Ukrainian pro-government analyst Mykhailo Pohrebinsky, who advises, among others, Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, said that it is now

“‘very likely’ that the election results will be reversed and that Yushchenko will become president thanks to an ‘illegal revolution.'”

Update: (Tobias, 19:29 CET) I don’t know what in the Russian attitude makes them think so (the article is not really clear in this respect), but The Economist now believes Putin is already hedging his bets.

Given the high stakes, the international pressure on Ukraine’s leaders has been strong. As well as the pressure from America and the EU, a key determining factor will be the attitude of Mr Putin. He would risk serious difficulties in his relations with both Europe and America if he were to back Mr Yanukovich in repressing the protests. Towards the climax of the Georgian revolution last year, Mr Putin seemed to lose patience with Mr Shevardnadze, perhaps contributing to his downfall. Does his wavering response to the Ukrainian conflict mean he is already hedging his bets?

Update: (Tobias, 21:20 CET) So that’s what it’s all about 😉 – according to the (conspiracy) theory of Sergei Markov, a Russian political scientist with alleged close ties to the Kremlin, published by MosNews.com (via chrenkoff), former President Carter’s Polish born National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski (the guy who lured the Russians into Afghanistan) is behind Ukraine’s Orange Revolution, and he wants to weaken Europe as well Russia, and drive a wedge between Putin and Bush –

[T]he original plan is for Poland to impose its patronage over Ukraine. Polish politicians are seeking more influence within the European Union, currently dominated by France and Germany, and to achieve this, they want to become patrons of the whole of Central and Eastern Europe, the Russian analyst said.

Markov said the United States would benefit from a Yushchenko victory as it would weaken Germany and France on the world arena and also split Ukraine and Russia. He also added that ?the majority of the representatives of the Polish diaspora in the United States hate George Bush and want to cause a quarrel between him and Russian President Vladimir Putin?.

Glad we know that now.

A resolution in sight, or a deeper crisis?

Two recent posts from Victor Katolyk:

korrespondent.net
The negotiations between Kuchma, Yanukovych, and Yushchenko will be held at 18:00 in the presence of international mediators. Yushchenko refused to hold eye-to-eye meetings with Kuchma or Yanukovych.

The negotiations will be mediated by Xavier Solana, Jan Kubish, Alexander Kwasniewski (President of Poland), Valdas Adamkus (President of Lithuania) and, possibly, other European and Russian diplomats.

Jan Kubis is OSCE Secretary-General. This does seem to be a good sign, except a post after it reveals what may be a worrying development:

elections.unian.net
In Lugansk, the session of the Oblast council has finished its sitting. The deputies adopted a decree about creating an autonomous south-east republic and signed an appeal to Putin with a request for recognition, – says the press center of the Ukrainian Socialist Party.

Currently, the local deputies are awaiting the arrival of Moscow mayor Luzhkov.

One thing I’ve noticed over the past twenty-four hours has been the creation of parallel authorities within Ukraine, notably the National Salvation Council established by Yuschenko which has begun issuing issuing decrees and establishing its own military command structure for forces loyal to it. The worry I have is that while Yuschenko’s position appears to be strengthening – see, for instance, that reporters on Ukrainian state TV are moving away from the Government – those who fear a Yuschenko victory are moving to set up their own parallel (and perhaps secessionist) administration.

As I write this, though, Victor has another update noting that the head of Yanukovich’s headquarters has said that “creating an autonomy in the Eastern oblasts is not the best solution”. However, the idea is now on the table. After the relative quiet since Wednesday evening, this afternoon looks like another critical phase. A lot will depend on how hardline both sides are in the negotiations.

Blogwise, there are updates from Foreign Notes, The Command Post is covering events in good detail and via there, a blog I wasn’t aware of before, Notes From Kiev.

There’s now also an official statement from the Council of Europe urging a peaceful solution.

Ukraine: Day 5

Tobias’post below has already mentioned the letter on Tulipgirl and, like him, it reminded me of a quote, this time from Alan Moore’s graphic novel V For Vendetta:

‘It does not do to rely too much on silent majorities, Evey, for silence is a fragile thing…one loud noise, and it’s gone… Noise is relative to the silence preceding it – the more absolute the hush, the more shocking the thunderclap. Our masters have not heard the people’s voice for generations…and it is much much louder than they care to remember.’

Also via Tulipgirl, this blog is in Ukrainian, but has a lot of good pictures of what’s going on in Kiev. Le Sabot has more photos and more background analysis. Meanwhile Neeka has written a piece for the NYT (as well as being quoted in The Guardian and has an ineresting story about a protest by a TV sign language interpreter. Foreign Notes discusses the proposed swearing-in of Yanukovich as President today.

News keeps coming in from Maidan, but there have been no posts from Victor Katolyk or his friends this morning. There have been reports of Brama being offline, but it seems to be operating fine just now.

Javier Solana is now on his way to Kiev, along with President Kwasniewski of Poland, to try and mediate a solution between the two sides (the official press statement is here – pdf). It appears that early reports of Walesa’s visit yesterday were wrong and he is cautiously optimistic’ about progress being made. Indeed, he may have set the groundwork for Solana and Kwasniewksi’s visits. The Kyiv Post also reports that Lithuanian President Adamkus will also be visiting. The other important development inside Ukraine is that management imposed reporting restrictions are being lifted on many TV stations also in the Kyiv Post which refers tto the ‘regime’s grip over TV media crumbling’.

Finally, some other interesting sites or comments: Political Ukraine has background, Randy McDonald has some thoughts on Ukrainian national identity along with links to academic papers on the subject, The Russian Dilettante has several thoughts on the issue as does Siberian Light.

The live webcam feed from Independence Square is still available. And finally, back in May we had several features here about the Eurovision Song Contest (which was won by Ukraine) and now thi year’s winner Ruslana has declared she is on hunger strike in support of Yuschenko.

Update: Tulipgirl has website buttons for democracy in Ukraine. There are more at Amelia Hunt’s website. Examples below:
democracy_logo5.gifmapflag-button.jpg

An Orange Song Of The Heart

The TulipGirl quotes a letter from her friend Lena, wishing that everybody could truly understand the nature of the hope hiding behind the headlines talking about an Orange Revolution.

In (some of) Lena’s words

“Quite recently I didn’t believe that my people able to resist to violence and humiliation. 2 month ago I guessed that I live in the worst country in the world. I was oppressed when I could not see a dignity in my fellow citizens, that I could not see the willingness to freedom and happiness in them. I considered that there is no passionaries in my country, and even when they appear all the rest start make propaganda: “they just have nothing to do” or “they just want to take the power”. And for me there was obviously the main difference between Ukrainians who says “What can I do?…” and for example Americans who says “Just do it! …

November, 22 I started to be really proud of my co-citizens. Now I can see that them are not passive mammals who want just to dig comfortable burrow, to generate they own posterity and to finish life in poverty, pretending that there is no another way. Since November, 22 there was not a crowd on the main square of my country. It is the PEOPLE. It is the NATION. Love, faith and hope filled up a whole space of capitol of my country and warm these people who spend the nights on the frost snowing street instead to lie down on the sofa and watching the “pocket” TV channels and chewing sausage?”

When I thought about a title or quote that might express what I think Lena was referring to in her letter, I remembered the chorus of an old song by John Farnham, called “That’s Freedom”.

It’s a song of the heart

A race in the wind

A light in the dark

That’s freedom

It’s a reason to live

And after the rain

Rekindle the spark

Let freedom ring

Of course having high hopes is dangerous when the risk of failure is immediate and the consequences may be grim. And we all know how hard it is to make a leap of faith sometimes.

Yet without this kind of faith no one would ever jump. And nothing would ever be achieved. For all the obstacles on the way to a brighter future, to a united and democratic Ukraine, to me, Lena’s words are the spark. The most promising sign yet that the Orange Revolution has, in some sense, already succeeded.

For some more emotional context, Brama.com now hosts a private short film called “The Revolution, a film by Tristan Brotherton, for nobody in particular” (10mb, wmv) which I did not link yesterday due to bandwidth considerations.

Tony in Trouble.

Tony Blair, the British Prime Minister, chatted live on a mobile chat with O2 subscribers today. I don’t know if the questions were sent in in text message lingo, but the transcript is remarkably legible. As asking complicated questions via a mobile handset is, well, complicated, the questions – and answers – are also remarkably concise.

I suppose one of them is gonna cause some trouble at Number 10 tonight…

Voodoo> Would you trust your wife to run the country?

PM> Well fortunately that’s not a question that’s arising!