Despite Yanukovych’s victory in the Ukrainian elections it is still a victory for the Orange revolution.
Yanukovych’s party of the regions has beaten both Yushchenko and Tymoshenko the leaders of the Orange revolution that swept over Ukraine five years ago. This would seem to be a step backwards, however the election was free and fair, Moscow did not involve itself and Ukraine seems unlikely to swing back from being a democracy – what the Orange revolution was meant to achieve.
You can also add to the debate by leaving your comment at the end of the page.
The elections were observed as free and fair.
Observers from the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) declared that the elections were " an "impressive display" of democracy" [[http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/feb/09/tymoshenko-challenge-ukraine-election-result]]. This is a marked contrast to the 2004 elections which provoked thousands to take to the streets of Kiev in protest. There were no observations of fraud, unfair donations or threats of fear and violence. The very fact the electorate were able to dump Viktor Yushchenko (the out going President) out in the first round of voting shows how Ukrainian politics has come full circle.
The poisoning of Yushchenko during the 2004 campaign highlighted the sinister and corrupt nature of Ukrainian politics. The former prime minister Viktor Yanukovich received huge backing form Russia with Putin pledging $600 million to Yanukovich's campaign to maintain the status-quo [[http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2010/02/08/why_the_orange_revolution_didnt_just_die?page=0,0]]. Yanukovich enjoyed the run of the state's media while Yushchenko was forced to use speeches and rallies to make a direct address to his supporters.
In just 6 years Ukraine has moved from its opposition leaders being poisoned to the OSCE heaping praise for the democratic and fair nature of its elections. Even though the former leaders of the Orange Revolution were voted out of power, it was done fairly and democratically. Ironically, it was the success of their democratic reforms that allowed the Ukrainian electorate openly to voice and dismiss the ruling government. Although it was a loss of power for the former leaders of the Orange Revolution, their original campaign was fought on bringing open and fair democracy to Ukraine. They can take pride in the fact they were removed using the tools of democracy.
Although the international community has heaped praise on Ukraine's recent electoral conduct, there has been no improvement on the deeply rooted corruption within the country. Transparency International gave Ukraine a ranking of 146 in last years corruption perception index. That places Ukraine alongside Zimbabwe, Sierra Leone, East Timor and Russia. In 2004, the year of the Orange Revolution, Ukraine's ranking was 122[[http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2010/02/08/yanukovich_won_get_over_it?page=0,0&obref=obinsite]].
For the 6 years that Yuschenko was in power, nothing was done to tackle the corruption. The claims that the electoral process is fair and democratic become insignificant when the Ukrainian people are faced with such widespread corruption on a daily basis. The electorate can now freely choose their leaders and criticise them, however, it makes little difference if that transparency and openness doesn't filter back down to the lowest levels. This is why Yuschenko was comprehensively dumped out of power in the first round of elections in favour of Yanukovich, the Prime Minister before the 2004 orange revolution.
Much more aligned to Russia
Regardless of his policies a victory for Yanukovych is a victory for Moscow. He is much more likely to follow a pro Russian line and likely to be much cooler towards NATO and America. Yanukovych had been PM before Yushenko came to power so his victory represents a step back towards old policies. The Orange revolution was seen, at least from the outside (including by Russia) as being about a change in foreign policy orientation as towards the west along with the changes towards a transparent free market that the west represents. It is unlikely that Yanukovych is going to be an arch-free marketer.
Ukraine still values the EU and will continue to do so under Yanukovych. This is shown by his first foreign visit being the Europe rather than to Russia.
What do you think?