BRAMA, Nov 20, 2004, 12:00 pm ET|
Youths around the world send 'orange-aid' for Ukraine's presidential election
The highly charged presidential election in Ukraine has inspired the younger generation, both in Ukraine and far beyond the country's borders, to become actively involved in the campaign. Brandishing presidential candidate Viktor Yushchenko's orange colored campaign materials (headbands, buttons, banners) young people have mobilized to help insure a free and fair election - one that is seen as pivotal in Ukraine's short history as an independent state. All are in opposition to the pro-Kremlin government-backed candidate, Viktor Yanukovych; most of them openly support the western-minded opposition candidate, Viktor Yushchenko.
In Canada and the United States, large numbers have joined the forces to become independent election observers in the first and second rounds, traveling to Ukraine at their own expense. Yesterday, one youth group of Ukrainian American volunteers sent a letter of appeal to some 450 media companies to increase in coverage of the Ukraine run-off election on Sunday, November 21, 2004. [CLICK FOR MEDIA LETTER]
In France, activists worked hard to bring the voters out in the first round (October 31), and even produced a short film recording their efforts. [CLICK FOR VIDEO]
In Germany this week, students held a candlelight vigil to protest human rights abuses and violations against independent media in Ukraine. [CLICK FOR PHOTOS]
In Ukraine itself, the youth-led civic group PORA has presented street theater offering entertaining political commentary. However, this is just a side-show compared to the massive rallies PORA has staged all over the country. The huge demonstrations have created far-reaching popular support mobilizing still other student groups around Ukraine in the days before the final phase of the election process. [PORA WEBSITE]
All of these efforts are geared towards changing Ukraine's direction from the pro-Moscow path taken by President Leonid Kuchma, a legacy that Prime Minister Yanukovych has vowed to pursue. To garner voter support Mr. Yanukovych has made promises of wage and pension increases, a common bread-and-circuses ploy.
The opponent and frontrunner from the first round, Viktor Yushchenko, called on voters to go to the polling station and cast their votes, but warned that "[w]e will raise millions of citizens to defend the Constitution" in the event of ballot fraud. Reports reveal that absentee ballots were used in the first round to skew the results in favor of one candidate, and there is mounting evidence that the same is planned for Sunday's poll. This week, the Verkhovna Rada (Parliament) voted to ban the use of absentee ballots, but President Kuchma refused to sign it, calling it unconstitutional.
Mr. Yushchenko believes that a good working relationship with Russia is essential, but sees Ukraine's future with closer ties to Europe. A free market economy and democratic leadership would be the hallmarks of a Yushchenko government.
The youth groups spearheading the "orange-colored" global support movement for a democracy in Ukraine are hopeful for positive results on Sunday. Whatever the outcome, they seem well-prepared to carry on the work for a democratic Ukraine even after the election.