Ukraine. Farewell to the Orange Revolution

19 Jan 2010

 The blunt-spoken Yanukovych against the ‘gas Princess’ at the runoff. There was no surprise at the first round of the Ukraine’s presidential election. The former CEO of the National Bank, Serhiy Tihipko, didn’t succeed in overtaking Yulia Tymoshenko, but he got more than 3 million votes.

 The Orange Revolution is over. President Viktor Yushchenko, who led it in 2004, trailed in the polls with just over 5 percent. He completely wasted the popularity he conquered 5 years ago when millions of people supported him and his policy.

 The Orange Revolution had an incredible impact on the former USSR similar to the one caused by the Berlin’s Wall fall on Central Europe. After centuries the Russian pole has found a great competitor in the EU and the regional balance has moved westwards. The European enlargement to the East in May 2004 indirectly helped the creation of this favourable situation for the oranges. Since then, the Ukraine’s membership in the European Union has become a popular topic in Brussels. Ukrainians will remember the Orange Revolution for the hope they acquired for a better future at home and for the disappointment they got for the broken promises and the long period of political paralyses.

 Despite warnings of large-scale election fraud in the days leading up to Sunday's vote, officials and election observers said the ballot seemed fair and orderly. There was no evidence of voter intimidation or organized fraud.

 “Ukraine is a European democratic country”, said Yushchenko in a sort of political will at the polling station. “It is a free nation and free people.” This point of view can be shared. In these years Ukraine has demonstrated to be probably the most developed democracy in the former USSR. Where might another real multi-parties system be found as in Kiev? Where is the same full freedom of speech guaranteed in the Soviet area?

 Thus, the Ukrainian disappointment for not having become a EU member with a new formula during the orange power can also be shared, especially if we consider the membership given to the problematic Bulgaria and Romania in 2007. Brussels would have had a better position in the control of the strategically important gas and oil pipelines from Russia and Asia.

 Despite Tymoshenko's second place finish, her sharp political instincts give her the edge in the runoff vote. Oleksandr Turchynov, the head of Tymoshenko's election headquarters, said they are sure that the voters backing Tihipko, Yuschenko, Change Front head Arseniy Yatsenyuk and some other contenders in the first round will support Tymoshenko in the runoff regardless of the position of the candidates themselves.

 But Tihipko said he did not intend to support any candidate in the runoff even if he was offered the post of prime minister. He had personal links with Tymoshenko’s circle when he was the regional Dniepropetrovsk’s leader of the Komsomol, the Communist Union of Youth in the late Eighties. Tihipko has also been for years one of the most faithful advisers of former Ukrainian president Leonid Kuchma, who chose  Yanukovych as his successor in 2004.

 The next Ukrainian president will likely concentrate on consolidating power and shoring up the economy. Ukraine's currency crashed in 2008, the economy sputtered and the IMF had to step in with a $16.4 billion (euro11.41 billion) bailout. Ukraine's gross domestic product plunged by 15 percent in 2009, according to the World Bank.

 Wealthy businessmen are likely to retain a tight grip on the economy and the main enterprises and to hold sway over politics. They will be the main security against a too strong Russian influence on their country in next future.

Giuseppe D'Amato

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