Skip to comments.Deadlock, but itís not all doom and gloom
Posted on 04/03/2007 4:57:37 PM PDT by A. Pole
What has gone wrong with Ukraines Orange Revolution? The best answer is that it never went right. The latest crisis merely brings to a head the tension between two halves of a country so deeply divided it barely looks like one nation. President Yushchenko was too convenient a hero for Europe and the US after the 2004 revolution, when he wrested power from his rival Viktor Yanukovich, as hundreds of thousands rallied in freezing temperatures in Independence Square to protest against rigged elections. Pockmarked, from dioxin poisoning before the election, a crime that has never been solved, Yushchenko seemed the ideal Ukrainian leader: charismatic, Western-leaning, friend of business entrepreneurs and liberal pundits, bearing the visible scars of a near-fatal attack by the pro-Russian old guard (as it is assumed). A hero for half the country, perhaps. But Ukraine is profoundly split between the Polish-influenced, Catholic, Ukrainian-speaking west and the Russian-leaning, Orthodox, industrial east. A 1994 CIA report musing on the formal split of the country, at a time of economic strain, now looks melodramatic. Optimists argue that the knack of spanning the two cultures is Ukraines most valuable possession.
But it has brought deadlock to its politics. When Yanukovych became Prime Minister in March last year, after the election victory of his party, it brought a sharp clash with Yushchenko. This week Yushchenko, in dismissing the current parliament and calling new elections for May 27, is hoping to break the jam by winning a better hand in parliament. Even if the courts deem them legal, and they go ahead, that is unlikely.
The most encouraging point is that both parties are turning to the Constitution and courts in support of their positions. Yanukovych claims Yushchenko acted illegally in dissolving parliament; there will now be a brief pause while the Constitutional Court pronounces.
The second is that the economy is doing well, at least compared with dreadful expectations. Foreign investment has been shaken by the clashes of the past year, and the Government expects growth to fall to 6.5 per cent from 11.5 per cent in 2006, but inflation is under control.
The best hope, for those who want a more European Ukraine, is that the elections deliver Yushchenko a friendlier parliament, and that he patches up his feud with Yuliya Tymoshenko, former prime minister, forming a strong liberal, Western-leaning government. The worst is more deadlock: either because Yanukovich insists on waiting for a constitutional court ruling, which could take months; or because the election produces another parliament without a clear majority.
Of all the ways in which Yushchenko has disappointed Ukrainians, failing to show how courtship of the European Union and Nato would help them tops the list. It is unfortunate that the Orange Revolution came just months before France and the Netherlands voted no to the EU Constitution, giving voice to the growing mood against further enlargement. But the EU has given Ukraine reason since then to understand that it is languishing behind Turkey in an unmoving line towards accession.
All the EU can hope to do is help Yushchenko to tug Ukraine a little closer towards the West but if it fails to throw him even a few sops, that will be an expensive mistake.