Saturday, December 04, 2004

Moderate optimism 

I have been reading comments on this site and of some other blogs, generally suggesting a cautious optimism about the results of the Ukrainian Supreme Court's decision. I would argue, instead, that there's more about which to be optimistic than I thought would be. Ukraine is poised to take a step forward that many other post-Soviet states have failed to take; it may have taken a big one today, but the distance that step covers depends on what happens next.

I've been reading commentary from several people as well about the scope of this discussion (largely reading commentary by Ukrainian scholars to a Ukrainian studies scholars list.) I cannot emphasize enough that the Court went far beyond where we thought it would go. I really had thought we would get the revote in the two eastern Ukrainian provinces of Donetsk and Lugansk -- these were the areas where there were fairly well documented fraud; the general claims were less strong (as one commenter has vigorously claimed.) The court went beyond this to not only declare the whole second round null and void -- they put down a date for the repeated second round; and they significantly made a point of telling the government that they are on notice that violations may lead to future prosecution. They also cut off Kuchma at the knees for his preferred solution, substituting a new candidate for Yanukovych. The only way to introduce a new candidate now will be to completely violate the Ukrainian constitution (since decisions of the Court are not subject to appeal). I don't doubt the government forces may wish to do so, but hundreds of thousands in the streets of the capital may focus the mind on the folly that lies down that road.

There are certainly places this can go wrong, as I mentioned in the previous post. If they don't fix the porousness of the absentee ballot system the same fraud could occur again and Kuchma is trying to keep that channel open. We still have no idea who will constitute the new Central Election Committee or even if there will be a new one. And there's always Russia, who does have much money invested in Kuchma and Yanukovych and the current kleptocracy.

But TulipGirl has quoted Reagan correctly.
Evil is powerless ... If the good are unafraid.
As some of the parties around Kuchma begin to disintegrate (including that of my speculated substitute candidate, Tyhypko), one group loses power, and another becomes unafraid.