Friday, November 26, 2004
To remind readers new and old from a post I wrote last month, I've been following the election for the last year because I am a former economic advisor to the National Bank of Ukraine while the opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko was its governor. I lived in Kyiv, about five blocks from the presidential administration building, for a year in 1995-96. I wrote a book about Ukraine's economy based on research I did that year. His American-born wife was the country director for the firm for which I worked at that time. I haven't been back since, but I still write to friends at NBU and research the Ukrainian economy. I cannot pretend to be unbiased about this, but there are times where my concern for their personal safety (particularly after the poisoning incident) probably supercedes my concern for his political future.
Through that lens...
There seems to be a good bit of cheer over the Supreme Court's decision to review the election results, but I would take that with a grain of salt for two reasons. This does not insure Yushchenko's victory by any means. First, the Court cannot give Yushchenko a victory based on last Sunday's election; it could at best annul the election and require a re-runoff. If it chose to demand recounts in regions instead, I find it highly unlikely that the recounts would find the 800,000 votes needed to overturn the results. And while it's likely that in a fair re-runoff Yushchenko would win, there are still lots of cards stacked against him.
Not least of which is reason two: The Court is not exactly unbiased. I had to look up the Ukrainian Constitution to be sure I have this right, but most judges are appointed by the president to five year terms (then reaffirmed or dismissed by the parliament). It is not the independent structure of courts in the Anglosphere, and Kuchma has had plenty of time to put his people in the judiciary. The news reports treating the Court as being respected as unbiased don't agree with me on this, but one must remember that this Court had agreed to let Kuchma run for a third term in December 2003 -- Kuchma didn't because he didn't think he could win without massive manipulation of the vote (probably more than what happened here.) And his manipulations of the courts go well beyond this. In general, looking at the Freedom House rankings, Ukraine's system of governance is quite poor and extends through all branches.
Another reason to be concerned is the current strife in the areas controlled by Yanukovych's supporters. The provinces of Donetsk have held meetings in which they are threatening to seek secession to Russia. In Luhansk has the meeting with Kuchma that he wants, in the presence of the EU, with Yanukovych supposedly being only an observer. After appearing to stall out on the strike early Thursday, it appears the Orange Revolution has intensified around government buildings and looks to me like it's rattling Kuchma. And the talks may have Putin steamed, which is a good thing for the development of other xUSSR states in my view.
Keep reading the blogosphere, including this article (OK, not a blog) from Taras Kuzio, Le Sabot Post-Moderne (who reports now that militiamen are in Independence Square chanting "The militia is with the people"), TulipGirl (who I think are husband and wife), Fistful of Euros, Neeka's Backlog (she is the author of this piece in the NYT) and The Periscope. The pro-Yushchenko Maidan site has a newsfeed I'm using. My longest-running subscription around my house is the Kyiv Post, for which currently you don't need to register and subscribe (thanks, guys!) And if you feel so moved, put up this gif from Amy Hunt's site: