Monday, November 29, 2004

The Ukrainian elections

David Satter in the Wall Street Journal explains that since the demise of the Soviet Union, Ukraine has been ruled by an oligarchy of criminal clans.
A result of the absolutization of power in the former Soviet Union is that democracy has taken root only in the Baltic republics. In the other republics -- with the possible exceptions of Moldova and Georgia -- elections exist to confirm a decision that the authorities have already made. Until a few days ago, it appeared that Ukraine was about to strengthen this tradition. It was symbolic of the cynicism of the present Ukrainian leadership that the deputy head of Mr. Kuchma's administration reacted to the apparent poisoning of Mr. Yushchenko that has left his face pockmarked and partially paralyzed by suggesting that he should hire a food taster.

The popular revolt against the falsified election results in Ukraine has now spread from Yushchenko partisans to members of parliament, journalists working for state TV, and even members of the security forces. It could, if successful, reverse the relationship between rulers and ruled in Ukraine in a way that is dramatic enough to change the entire political psychology of the former Soviet space. It is for this reason that Mr. Putin has been so adamant in congratulating Mr. Yanukovich on his "victory." The example of a free Ukraine will morally isolate the Russian leadership, making clear that Russia can either join the civilized world or preserve authoritarian rule, but not do both. In this, Ukraine may repay a country that brought it communist enslavement with an example of freedom, and with the preconditions for a new start.

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