Saturday, January 16, 2010

Ukraine Votes Tomorrow!

There's a big presidential election In Ukraine tomorrow, Sunday, January 17.

It is the first national election since the Orange Revolution in 2004. That's when thousands of Ukrainians, dressed in orange, gathered peacefully in Kiev, the capital, and across the country, for fair elections and to protest and overturn the fraudulent election of state-supported Victor Yanukovych.

The re-vote put in the current president, Victor Yushchenko, on Dec 26, 2004. Optimism and hope for democratic reform were at an all-time high. They have been declining ever since.

Six years after the Orange Revolutiopn, many people feel it will be a waste of time to vote. Too many promises unfulfilled. The economy a disaster. All the candidates are the same, all corrupt. The oligarchs, the wealthy few, rule.

Can the upcoming election be stolen again? asked the Kyiv Post, an English language newspaper. Yes, many people think so. Nationwide polls confirm this.

It's complicated but a big part of the problem has to do with Ukraine's new presidential election law, which many consider to be flawed because for one thing it limits post-election challenges of voter fraud. The chairman of the Committee of Voters of Ukraine, a nationwide election watch dog, said "those not acting in good fatih will have every opportunity to commit fraud." (Kiev Post, 27 November, 2009.)

I hope he's wrong. There will be many national and international watchdogs during the election. My counterpart Vera, director of the human rights NGO Victoria, will be one of them here in Starobilsk. I am going to join her tomorrow so I can see for myself.

There are many candidates, some 18 I think, but the front runners are current Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, as brilliant as she is beautiful, and Victor Yanukovich of the Party of Regions. They are also the politicians who crafted this new legislation and pushed it through the parliament. They don't inspire great confidence, Yanukovich because he was the candidate ousted after the last fraudulent election, and Tymoshenko because no one believes what she says. Some people I talk to in Starobilsk support Tymoshenko as the lesser of the evils, however. It might be good for Ukraine to have a woman president, they say.

What will tomorrow bring for Ukraine? I am more hopeful than most Ukrainians, but we shall see.

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