Sunday, October 31, 2004

The other election this week 

It is hard to believe there could be an election this week with greater importance than that in the United States, but the election in Ukraine could be. The current president, Leonid Kuchma, is terribly corrupt but faces a term limit and must leave office. He is trying to pick a successor akin to the selection of Putin in Russia. That man would be Viktor Yanukovych. The government has engaged in a dirty campaign against the popular opposition led by Viktor Yushchenko. Yushchenko was reportedly poisioned earlier this fall, his rallies have been disrupted, and voter fraud is already expected.

Bruce Bartlett wrote earlier this week about Yushchenko's wife Kateryna. When she left the U.S. to work for KPMG in Ukraine, she was country manager when I worked for the same firm as an advisor to Yushchenko's central bank. Bartlett's memory of Kathy is the same as mine. I worked as well with Yushchenko and his deputies at the National Bank of Ukraine, having the privilege on three separate occasions of dining with him, Kathy and a group of excellent banking advisors. I still have friends there, Ukrainian and ex-pats.

The most likely outcome for today's election is that there will be a run-off on Nov. 21 between Yanukovych and Yushchenko. The country is about the size of France in population and land mass. It suffered a hyperinflation in 1993 (ended in large part by Yushchenko's central banking) and a decade of misgoverning by the kleptocratic Kuchma. The people deserve a clean election, and the race deserves America's attention.