Tuesday, January 12, 2010

No big man -- or woman 

Sadly, it comes to this for Ukraine.

It is humiliating for Ukraine that Mr Yanukovich, whose 2004 presidential campaign was widely seen as fraudulent, has not been hounded out of politics. He has survived thanks to a cynical political culture and the backing of big business. Even Mr Yushchenko has done deals with him.

Ms Tymoshenko should, in principle, be a more attractive choice, given her Orange credentials. But she has proved herself shamelessly opportunistic and shares the blame with Mr Yushchenko for the failures of the Orange camp. Her economic policies show a unnerving penchant for populist intervention, eg with arbitrary price caps.

In international affairs, both would balance ties with Russia with a slow push for European Union integration. Not much to choose between Ms T and Mr Y on this score.

So, whom to back in Sunday�s first round and next month�s run-off? Given the candidates� shortcomings, voters must focus on what is important. The key now is political stability. Only a stable Ukraine can achieve economic reform and recovery. Ms Tymoshenko is the polar opposite of a stabilising force. Mr Yanukovich, for all his manifest faults, may prove the lesser evil. Pity Ukraine that it has come to this.
One will recall long ago that Yushchenko had to make a constitutional deal to gain his victory, which left the government's real power in the fractious parliament, the Rada. Now, says LEvko, whomever wins will want to free themselves from the chains that bound Yushchenko.

Everyone favors democracy and freedom when they don't have power; the trick is to favor it when you do. Sacking it for the expediency of 'political stability' is no virtue.