Dec 6, 2004
On Friday, December 3, Ukraine's Supreme Court overturned the results of the country's presidential election and ordered a new runoff between the main candidates by December 26.
This is the latest development in a two-week standoff. On November 23, with many of his supporters demonstrating in the streets of Kiev and other big towns of Ukraine, Victor Yushchenko had the National Assembly, which his party controls, declare him the victor in Ukraine's presidential election. Only the day before, Victor Yanokovitch, who is the other candidate for president, had been proclaimed winner by the Electoral Commission of Ukraine, whose members were named by the out-going president, Leonid Kuchma, a buddy of Yanokovitch.
Yushchenko had more votes than Yanokovitch in the first round of the voting. In the second round, however, Yanokovitch came out ahead by threepercentage points. Yushchenko claims the election was stolen from him which is likely given the widespread popular hatred of those in power.
In any case, both candidates arranged the vote totals in the areas controlled by their supporters to ensure their own victory. In an industrial town controlled by Yanokovitch's allies, for example, Yanokovitch was awarded 99% of the vote. In western Ukraine, where anti-Russian nationalists supported Yushchenko, his vote totals were just as impossibly high. In some cases, on both sides, there were more votes counted than there were voters. In this "war of the Victors" as the press called it before the election the voting population were just like extras on a movie set.
Yanokovitch bases himself on the ruling bureaucracy of the large industrial cities, like Donetsk and Dnipetrovsk. This ruling bureaucracy has scarcely changed since the end of the Soviet Union.
But Yushchenko is hardly a paragon of virtue, as he's been described by the Western press. In fact, he shows the same contempt for the population as does his adversary. Yushchenko, the second Victor, was head of the government from 1999 to 2001; like the others, he was a bureaucrat in the old regime under the Soviet Union. Yushchenko may be less tied to the political clans of the large cities than are his rivals, but he was the head of the Ukrainian central bank before he became prime minister. So his power came from another part of the bureaucracy, the financial clan.
In Ukraine, where a streetcar conductor gets between $100 and $200 a month and a textile worker in Kharkov gets about half of that, everyone knows that outgoing President Kuchma used his two terms to enrich himself. He gave his daughter the mobile phone monopoly in the country; his son-in-law got rich in metal mining.
But it's hard not to laugh when Yushchenko claims he'll be the "clean guy" as opposed to the corrupt people currently in power. Yushchenko had nothing to learn about corruption from Kuchma and Yanokovitch. While he was head of the central bank, the loans from the IMF disappeared into his pockets. His assistant Timoshenko was condemned to a prison term not because of the considerable amounts of Russian gas and oil he diverted from the Ukrainian population but for not sharing his riches with the other bank directors. These politicians completely interchangeable at the beginning are now playing different games in attempts to bolster their political future. Yanokovitch looks to Russia's Putin for support, Yushchenko looks to the West, especially the United States.
The aim of both is to enrich themselves and their allies at the expense of the Ukrainian population.