99 Orange Balloons (and then some more…)

99 (and some more) orange balloons are floating over Kyiv today while protesters gathered again peacefully waiting for the Supreme Court’s decision. In the meantime, outgoing President Kuchma met with Russia’s President Putin at a Russian governmental airport near Moscow. There are differing reports about what exactly Putin said with respect to a possible Ukrainian revote – whichever form it may take. Deutsche Welle quotes President Putin saying “a rerun election would not help” while Reuters quotes him with “a repeat of the run-off vote may fail to work.” I suppose his statement was intentionally ambigous – yet according to the statement of President Kuchma (translated by Maidan), it seems, despite yesterdays sort-of-agreement, the Ukrainian administration is still trying to gain time. Here’s (part of) what he allegedly said after the meeting with President Putin:

“The most important thing is that the Supreme Court, as the highest organ, must say if the violation occurred or not. The parliament has adopted a political decision. It is quite right, we must find a political solution.

The next developments seem very simple: Supreme Court’s verdict and the constitutional reform that will allow the parliament to form a government in a few days. In this case the parliament will be responsible for the situation in the country. Then a commission will consider the issue of reelections.”

Quite frankly, reading this one should wonder if there was something wrong with his last Vodka. It becomes more and more apparent that – for all the power the protesters lend to Yushenko – they also significantly narrow down his mandate in negotiations. There is no way the protesters will simply go home and wait for the administration prepare another rigged vote in a couple of months.

The window of opportunity for a peaceful solution is already beginning to close. As important as the rule of law is under normal circumstances, in this case, the rules have run out, and the people (on either side) are vociferously declaring who is Ukraine’s sovereign. Any further administrational attempt to trick them is unlikely to go down well. This may still end like it did in Nena’s song.

99 dreams I have had.

In every one a red balloon.

It’s all over and I’m standing pretty.

In this dust that was a city.

If I could find a souvenier.

Just to prove the world was here.

And here is a red balloon

I think of you and let it go.

UPDATE: (21:56 CET) – Ukraine’s Supreme Court once again adjourned without reaching a decision. Meanwhile, behind the scenes dealing and public positioning in anticipation of the court’s verdict continues, as the rejection of two Yanukovich peititon by the court are interpreted by some opposition members as a very hopeful sign with respect to the overall decision. According to Spiegel Online and Reuters, Ukrainian President Kuchma has conditionally agreed to dismiss Prime Minister Yanukovich, who lost a vote of no confidence in the Ukrainian Parliament yesterday. His offer comes with some strings attached – while cautiously accepting the need for speed (Interfax) with respect to new elections, he still insists on holding a full election, not just the run-off demanded by Yushenko, and his concept of “speedy” still clearly exceeds the time-horizon of the opposition.

The deteriorating economic and budgetary situation in Ukraine may be the central element in the President’s realization that the stand-off cannot be dragged-on until the protesters have frozen – although it is hard to determine to which extent his statements could be considered a threat indicating the increasing economic inevitability to end the protests, one way or another.

As the Ukranian National Bank seems increasingly worried about massive outflows of foreign currency deposits, Interfax mentions that the President met with some members of the current government yesterday explaining that this year’s electoral turmoil had already cost Ukraine dearly –

“Revenues are shrinking in virtually all branches of the economy, partly due to a decline in foreign trade, Kuchma said. “Some regions, for instance Sumy, Zhitomir and Donetsk, in November brought only half of the required amount to the budget. That directly threatens the payment of wages, social benefits and pensions.”

4 thoughts on “99 Orange Balloons (and then some more…)

  1. From the Guardian:

    Students go green in plea for peace

    A new colour has emerged in Ukraine’s polarised political spectrum. Students in Kharkov, worried by the escalating confrontation between Viktor Yushchenko’s orange revolutionaries and the blue-and-white supporters of Viktor Yanukovich, have established a “green” movement called We Are for Peace! with the aim of bringing the two sides together.

  2. It becomes more and more apparent that – for all the power the protesters lend to Yushenko – they also significantly narrow down his mandate in negotiations.

    Indeed, Yushcheko faces a difficult balancing act between his mandate as the leader of a popular uprising and the political constraints. I think this is a dilemma that faces the opposition as a whole. The visceral impulse that brings people onto the streets has rejection as its main component. It demands victory rather than compromise. But the opposition isn’t a revolutionary movement, at least in its present (and I hope future) form. It can’t make use of its numbers directly, that is, in their capacity to apply or threaten violence. It can only harness them to press for a more advantageous consensus, within the paramaters of law, international acceptance — plain Realpolitik, above all.

    That, inescapably, spells out a contradiction. Yesterday, Ukrayinska Pravda (an openly partisan but, in context, quite moderate source, whose English site contains only a fraction of its lovely Ukrainian/Russian contents) published the first editorial I’ve seen there to criticise Yushchenko in bluntly harsh terms, taking him to task for making deals and mobilizing crowds without using them for direct action (“. . . From the very start of the ‘orange revolution’ there were two things that surprised the most: the immense courage of the rallying people and the sometimes complete irresponsibility of their leaders.”)

    On Neeka’s blog, Veronica Khokhlova analyzed her own reactions.

    I thought today’s Ukrayinska Pravda story about Tymoshenko’s speech on Independence Square nicely captured the challenge and predicament of having people stand in the snow just to lend leverage for backroom deals:

    “They want to flush Yanukovych down the toilet and find another candidate — Tyhipko or Kuchma himself. Kuchma thinks that the people are falling in love with him lately. And now he’s gone to Moscow to decide whom to nominate.”

    “For shame!”, – answered the Square. “For shame, you got it! No doubt”, – replied Tymoshenko.

    She quipped that maybe Kuchma traveled to ask Putin to congratulate Yanukovych one more time.

    Tymoshenko also asked the people to remain on the Square until final victory. “God forbid a single person should leave the square — Kuchma will immediately sense it with every fibre of his body.”

    It’s only thanks to the people that Yanukovych’s resignation was won, she said.

    “Will you be able to hold out until Yushchenko is declared president?”, – asked Tymoshenko. “Tak!!!” – answered the Square.

    . . .

    Yurii Lutsenko, who took the word after her, told the crowd that Friday’s action was very important. “Yesterday was our Stalingrad! Tomorrow will be our Kursk!” – he said.


  3. I was walking down Holland Park Avenue in London where the Ukrainian embassy is located and there was another huge protest last night. This was about 8pm, and I’d say there was 500 people at least. A policeman told me that this was nothing compared to earlier in the day.

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