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2 November, 2012

After the Election Day

Most foreign observers and media noted serious violations and flaws of the Ukrainian parliamentary elections that may delay the prospect of the EU Association Agreement ratification for Ukraine

International organizations have paid close attention to the election, taking a deep insight into the process, and getting a better picture of the election reality in Ukraine. While some gave positive feedback, most foreign observers and media noted serious violations and flaws that may delay the prospect of the EU Association Agreement ratification for Ukraine

“Ukraine’s parliamentary elections were characterized by a tilted playing field… This was the result, primarily, of the abuse of administrative resources, as well as a lack of transparency in campaign and party financing and of balanced media coverage.“Considering the abuse of power, and the excessive role of money in this election, democratic progress appears to have reversed in Ukraine,” said Walburga Habsburg Douglas, the Special Co-ordinator who led the OSCE short-term election observation mission and the Head of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly delegation. “One should not have to visit a prison to hear from leading political figures in the country.”

“Ukrainians deserved better from these elections. The 'oligarchization' of the whole process meant that citizens lost their ownership of the election, as well as their trust in it,” said Andreas Gross, the Head of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) delegation. “Unfortunately, the great democratic potential of Ukrainian society was not realized in yesterday's vote.””

“The United States Government is concerned that the conduct of Sunday’s parliamentary elections constituted a step backwards from progress made during previous parliamentary elections and the 2010 presidential election, elections that had marked important steps forward for Ukraine’s democracy… While election day was peaceful overall and observed by a large number of domestic and international observers, we are troubled by allegations of fraud and falsification in the voting process and tabulation, by the disparity between preliminary results from the Central Election Commission and parallel vote tabulations, and by the Central Election Commission’s decision not to release precinct results. We also reiterate our deep concern that the politically motivated convictions of opposition leaders… prevented them from standing in these elections.”

“ENEMO international observation mission to Ukraine has noted that parliamentary elections held on October 28, 2012 were competitive, offering voters choice between various political parties and candidates, however, election campaign and polling day were negatively affected by serious flaws and violations.  Mr. Peter Novotny, Head of the Mission stated: “Compared to previous 2006 and 2007 parliamentary elections, ENEMO mission observed in the pre-election period significantly higher number of campaign violations, abuse of administrative resources, voter bribery, harassment and intimidation of candidates and campaign workers and intimidation of journalists. The political landscape of 2012 elections was also influenced by imprisonment of two prominent opposition figures, Yulia Tymoshenko and Yuriy Lutsenko.”

“There appears little hope for closer ties with the West, even if the elections are deemed free and fair. Western leaders have indicated Mr. Yanukovych needs to free Ms. Tymoshenko, relax the ruling party's grip on the media and push through legal and other overhauls if the European Union is to revive a political-association and free-trade deal it shelved last year.

That could increase pressure on Mr. Yanukovych to give in to Russia's demands to join a customs union it has formed with other ex-Soviet republics in order to receive lower-price gas.”

…even if Yanukovych does lean westwards, there is still the big neighbour to the east. “The key will be the relationship with Russia,” says Ash. “Russia has supported Yanukovich and now it wants delivery. Warm words may no longer be enough. It could get ugly and aggressive.”Russiawants Ukraine’s energy sector assets and, especially, access to Ukraine’s gas pipelines. If Russia decides to play hardball, it could get ugly indeed: Russia is a big customer of Ukraine’s agricultural and industrial goods. As Ash puts it, Russia has considerable ability to disrupt the Ukrainian economy.

“After its defeat, the opposition complained about voter bribery and administrative pressure. These claims may be partly true, but are not good enough to explain the outcome because the opposition should have tried to work harder: political apathy is too high in Ukraine, and public trust is extremely low. The impact of this crisis is still visible, especially given the fact that Tymoshenko is still an opposition leader. Unlike in the 2004 presidential election where almost 80% of the population voted, this time voter turnout was barely 60%. Those who stayed at home on election day were the voters strongly disenchanted with the Orange Revolution.”

“Ukraine is structurally underdeveloped and politically authoritarian. Yanukovych and his people managed to fool Ukrainians that their grief over 2004, the dreams of the Orange Revolution, hopes of openness, democracy and Western integration, as well as simultaneous friendship with Russia are in the best hands as long as he is in power… The struggle for power that raged for years between ex-president Viktor Yushchenko and his premier Yulia Tymoshenko changed the way many people thought: they no longer want to know about democracy if it only means that everyone is fighting against everyone else… The opposition, grouped around the imprisoned Yulia Tymoshenko, gained fairly good results despite massive falsifications before the election. Anti-government parties managed to convince almost half of all voters to support them. But it wasn’t enough. A new uprising, another Orange Revolution, is a remote prospect. Yanukovych was successful with his policy: he satiated the voters’ hunger with propaganda and paternalism.”

“Tymoshenko and Klitschko should now oppose (the government – Ed.) together in the new parliament. For this they need a Europe that will support them, show interest and criticize problems with the rule of law. They have three years to do this. In the 2015 presidential election, they should agree on a single candidate to run for the presidency. And they must win back the people who lost trust in the power of transformation in politics. This is probably an almost impossible challenge.”  

“The EU should give some signals to regulate democracy in Ukraine, but those signals should not have a negative impact on the Ukrainian people. The Council of Europe can ban the traveling of some SBU (Special Service of Ukraine – Ed.) chiefs and prosecutors involved in demonstrative trials. But, first of all, European politicians, especially those from Poland, should stop treating Yanukovych as a gentleman and walk the red carpet with him. The Poles’ historical concern that Russia may one day “swallow” Ukraine and once again appear on their Eastern border is understandable indeed… Oligarchs in Ukraine are very well aware that their game is over as soon as they are left alone in Moscow’s orbit without European support. Ukraine will turn into the empire’s satellite and its president will become a princeling. Neither Yanukovych, nor his billionaires want this. They need a partner, therefore they will not find it easy to ignore demands concerning the rule of law. Still, these demands should be specific and unanimous, not just indecisive hints at European values.” 

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