December 26, 2004
UKRAINE UPDATE, from the New York Times:
Monday, Dec. 27 – Viktor A. Yushchenko, the opposition leader, appeared headed for a resounding victory early Monday in a riveting presidential race marked by intrigue, charges of poisoning, fervent street demonstrations and widespread abuses of state power.
There were no independent reports of the egregious election violations that had discredited the previous round of voting. Mr. Yushchenko, addressing supporters at this headquarters, predicted an end at last to an extended and bitter election season.
“It has happened,” said Mr. Yushchenko, his face still disfigured from dioxin poisoning this fall for which he has blamed his adversaries in the government. “Today we are turning a page of lies, censorship and violence.” Ahead, he said, lay a “new epoch of a new great democracy.”
With 74 percent of the votes from the Sunday election counted, Mr. Yushchenko was leading Prime Minister Viktor F. Yanukovich by 55 percent to 40 percent, according to the Central Election Commission. The early results placed him within the range predicted by surveys of voters exiting the polls, which gave the opposition a 15- to 20-point lead.
This seems like excellent news, and it’s certainly a black eye for Putin, whose heavyhanded interference not only helped win the election for Yushchenko, but has ensured that this will send ripples throughout other former Soviet states. Some useful observations here:
–The mild support we gave to the democratic forces in the Ukraine proved far more powerful than most of the experts expected. The revolutionaries required a bit of guidance in the methods of non-violent resistance, a bit of communications gear, and many words of encouragement. They did the rest. The same can and should be done elsewhere in the world (Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia, China, North Korea…)
–Our democratic values are shared by the overwhelming majority of the people in the world, and are rejected, sometimes violently, by tyrants and their followers. We need to stick to our principles, which means that we cannot blindly and compulsively support all the policies of individual anti-democratic leaders just because they help us. That kind of support always gets us in trouble (as in the Middle East, where we are justly criticized for our many decades of support for corrupt tyrants). Sometimes we will have to make some compromises, but when we do, we must still support democratic forces–openly, unapologetically.
Read the whole thing.
MORE: Russian reaction here, along with these observations:
Ukraine has been a litmus test of Russia’s capacity to influence events in the neighbouring countries.
And it appears that capacity is limited after the defeat of Mr Yanukovych, the candidate Moscow directly backed with money, moral support, advertising and TV airtime. . . .
One communist newspaper, Pravda, says the result means “the complete loss of our gas and oil export routes to the USA or the European Union”. It also voices the fear that Mr Yushchenko’s election means “Russia no longer exists as a world-class power”. Pravda blames Washington for this.
Centrist commentators portray a very different situation.
A writer for business publication Kommersant claims the outcome of Ukraine’s political crisis means “the Orange Revolution virus will now spread to Russia”.
He writes: “It will not take long to dismantle the new Russian totalitarianism”.
Media sources close to the Kremlin have stayed away from an assessment of Ukrainian exit polls. Instead, they have concentrated on the happy atmosphere in Kiev, and the apparent absence (so far) of reports of mass violations.
It’s certainly good news, in my opinion.