The Warrior Audrey.


Yulia Tymoshenko
2004 may be well the year of Ukraine’s warrior princesses. First, singer Ruslana managed to put Ukraine on Europe’s musical map by winning the Eurovision song contest with her Wild Dances in May, and now, in early December, it doesn’t seem unlikely that the other warrior princess, Yulia Tymoshenko, one of the most mysterious political figures in Ukraine, will become Prime Minister.

The Guardian’s Nick Paton Walsh claims that, “while for the time being she is proving a great and popular rebel leader, no one really knows what she stands for,” and, on Neeka’s Backlog, Veronica Khokhlova confirms The Economist’s warning (via The Independent) that, “though she may look like Audrey Hepburn, anyone who has got this far in a country where politics often resembles a Jacobean revenge tragedy must have an edge” by wrinting about Mrs Tymoshenko that

“she’s an awesome politician – full of dignity, full of class, soft yet has some very deadly poison hidden underneath, very convincing when she speaks, prepared wonderfully to any kinds of questions, be it about the opposition’s plans, her own finances or her alleged radicalism. She’s beautiful, too, but her looks are as much of an asset as they are not.

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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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