Dressed For Success!

UPDATE: (18:02 CET) I just removed the question mark behind the headline! Yushenko’s lawyers were dressed for success: According breaking agency reports, Ukraine’s Supreme Court, after five days of hearing, just ruled that the disputed presidential election officially won by Ukrainian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich is invalid. Moreover, the court has not just backed Mr Yushchenko’s claims of systematic fraud. According to Reuters, the court’s Chairman Anatoly Yarema, said a “repeat vote” was necessary and should take place on Dec. 26. He apparently also suggested it would be a run-off vote only. Outgoing President Kuchma and Prime Minister Yanukovich had proposed a complete repeat of the election in a couple of months.

[Original post starts here] I suppose the appearances of lawyers should not influence the outcome of any legal matter, yet according to Matthias Braun’s “Moskauerzeit“, the Russian newspaper Komersant (in Russian) noted that Mr Yushenko’s lawyers at the Supreme Court hearing are apparently not simply brighter than those representing Mr Yanukovich, but also clearly better dressed. Let’s hope this fashion statement won’t be turned into another round of speculations about European and American hard-money meddling in Ukraine.

While the Supreme Court retired to deliberate about the verdict, the Ukrainian Parliament declared it would be in session all weekend, although earlier rumors about the introduction of price controls turned out to have been just that: rumors.

The situation is still incredibly tense. Just as an example – Maidan reports that there are now Water-Jets being filled with water. Their use would clearly have devastating consequences, not simply because of the Ukrainian climate. The opposition is either angry or in disbelief about Kuchma’s trip to Moscow, and Le Sabot provides some new evidence of the danger of ethnic cleavages being exploited in a political conflict –

I was reminded last night just how insidious the Yanukovych propaganda machine really is. My good friend Roma is from Russia but lives in Kiev. He only listens to the establishment channels for news, because he doesn’t like the Opposition.

He’s a die-hard Yanukovych man. Why? “Because Yushchenko is like Hitler — he wants to kill all the Russians.” He can’t tell you why he thinks Yushchenko wants to do that, but he’s been convinced.

If a young, well educated Kievite can be this blinded to reality, I can only imagine what Donetsk must be like.

It should be noted at this point, however, that Yushenko’s national movement apparently has not just been supported by seemingly altruistic Western pro-democracy movements, but has significant ties to the Ukrainian nationalist right, including the – intended, or unintended – support from the far-right, which is flatly called “fashist” by some commentators. Clearly, for a plethora of reasons, this element of his coalition building is not given the appropriate attention at the moment.

On the day on which the Russian Duma decided to further weaken Russian checks and balances (Spiegel Online, in German) – approving President Putin’s requests about the appointment of regional governors as well as raising the minimum membership of a “political party” to 50,000 (up from 10,000) with at least 500 (up from 100) members in at least 45 of the 89 Russian Regions – Veronica Khokhlova translates an article from Natalia Gervorkyan, a Russian journalist, about the “orange threat” for Russia, which makes the point I made about the “orange solution” a couple of posts down – albeit in a far more emotional manner. Beyond private interests, Russia has no reason to be too worried about losing influence in Kyiev: the countries are structurally too intertwined in too many ways. But authoritarian model of governance being practiced in Russia today has all reason to be worried about the organizational change being implemented in Kyiv right now.

“[Ukrainians have] swept away the vertical supports and are bellowing so loudly it might wake our cattle, peacefully asleep for now. Orange threat! It’s crucial to act fast. First, to amend the anti-terrorism law, appropriately or not, with a ban on “actions that may affect the government’s ability to make decisions aimed at satisfying social and political demands and interests” of the protesters. So that it didn’t occur to them, God forbid, to come out into the streets and rally, as in Kiev, and to exert psychological pressure and demand their social and political rights.

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.”