Thursday, January 21, 2010

Post-Election Blues

The count is still going on. Thousands of handwritten paper ballots. No computers. All in the hands of the counters. Maybe that's where things can happen.

Election day seemed to go well. It was a sunny day, very cold, below zero. The dome of Saint Nicolas glistened in the sun against a cobalt-blue sky. I went to join Vera at School #1 to poll watch, informally, but it turns out I didn't have the right credentials and I got booted out (nicely of course).

So I watched people go in and out for a while. A long table held literature on all the candidates. The polling booths looked a lot like those in America. People were intent, serious.

I was impressed that so many older people voted. The elderly gentleman with the cane (photo) came by taxi. Othes were helped by adult children. I wondered what they were thinking, what stories they could tell.

I'm not sure where things stand now. As I understand it, no one has a majority of votes. With 18 candidates, the votes are spread out and their impact diluted. On top right now is Victor Yanukovych (with about 35% of the vote) and second is Julia Tymoshenko (25%), current prime minister and foe of outgoing president Yuchenko. The top two vote getters will face off in another election on 1 February.

I'm no political expert, but around here no one likes Yanukovych. He's an old-guard old-timer, people say, dominated by the oligarchs. His base is in Donetsk, his hometown, where he is pals with some of the richest men in Ukraine. He was, in fact, the candidate the Orange Revolution ousted in the fraudulent election six years ago. His candidacy this time around seems like a bold-faed snub of that democratic protest.

Luba yells at the TV every time he comes on or his percentage of the votes goes up. She shakes her head in disbelief. My friends Olga and Tonya feel the same way. How in the world is this happening? Why did people vote for this guy? I think it's how I felt when Al Gore won the election and then the Supreme Court gave it to George W. Bush. A sinking feeling of helplessness and outrage. Post-election blues.

Some pundits believe the vote for Yanukovich represents disappointment about the results of the Orange Revolution. So little has changed, so many promises are unfulfilled, things have gotten worse. It's the "disappointment" vote.

I am interested in the low-end of the election count--those 12 or so young, well-educated candidates who got 3% to 13% of the vote. They represent fresh faces and fresh thinking. Many were educated abroad, Natalia told me. If they got together in a honest government party, they could hold the future of Ukraine in their hands. New leaders are emerging, getting their names out there. I expressed this to Natalia, and she agreed. It's not coming fast enough for her, but I see hope on the horizon. "I love your optimism," she says.

The election's not over yet. The upcoming run-off election won't bring in new faces; it will be Yanukovich or Tymoshenko. Those people I talk to in Starobbilsk hope it will be the latter. They think she may get an anti-Yanokovich vote. Hope springs eternal. The future of Ukraine is still up for grabs.

No comments:

Post a Comment