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14 May, 2013 09:30   ▪  

Alexander Motyl: any referendum concocted by Party of Regions to prolong their rule could become a two-edged sword

If used cleverly holding of referendum in Ukraine could actually hasten the Party of Regions disappearance from Ukrainian politics, Alexander Motyl, American historian and professor of Political Science at Rutgers University, writes in his blog on The World Affairs Journal.

“True, the people could turn out to be as slavish as Party of Regions hope they are, but, then again, they just might not. After all, everyone would know that a referendum would be a ploy by Yanukovych and his pals to ensconce themselves in power indefinitely. And Yanukovych, as everyone knows, is deeply unpopular, while the Party of Regions base in the Donbas is progressively eroding. Moreover, the economy is a mess and will remain so for many months to come. It’s not at all clear that the people will opt for self-enslavement

Nor is it clear that the democrats and an outraged populace couldn’t do well in the majoritarian districts. Party of Regions` members think that everybody is a venal crook. They’re wrong and, like venal crooks in other parts of the world, they could easily discover that honesty, even in Ukraine, might be a pretty popular policy. And, however much they try to rig the presidential ballot, don’t bet on Yanukovych’s winning in a first round. Facing Armageddon, the democrats just might agree on a single candidate; it’s also possible that the incumbent could lose even if he runs against several,” Motyl notes.

READ ALSO: Beware the Referendum in the Hands of a Tyrant

“But imagine that Ukrainians do opt for self-enslavement—by a tiny majority. The result will be a slap in the face to the other half of Ukraine’s population, growing radicalization and polarization, and, not inconceivably, violence. Imagine that the referendum fails by a small number of votes. Party of Regions` members could falsify the results, but the outrage will likely be even greater. The only way a referendum would have the desired result is if it passes with a clear majority of, say, 60 percent to 40 percent. But if Yanukovych’s popularity and credibility were that high, there’d be no need for a referendum in the first place,” expert highlights.

Motyl believes that referendum law makes it possible for the democratic opposition to play the referendum game as well.

“The democrats could easily collect 3 million signatures in two-thirds of Ukraine’s provinces and, with a little bit of effort, they could probably collect a hundred thousand in all the provinces. Whether or not the democrats will avail themselves of this weapon is unclear. But the weapon exists and, if used cleverly by a united opposition, could actually hasten the Party of Regions disappearance from Ukrainian politics.

So, will the Party of Regions` members go the referendum route? Probably. But, since they’re too short-sighted to understand that opening a Pandora’s Box could unleash forces leading to their downfall, that just might turn out to be good news,” analyst states.

READ ALSO: Referendum Sleight-of-Hand

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