BRAMA, Dec 3, 2004, 12:00 pm ET|
How to Protect Ukraine's Democratic Revolution
By Timothy Snyder
The international community, led by the European Union and some of its
member-states, has correctly insisted upon the preservation of
democratic norms in Ukraine. Most important political actors within
Ukraine and abroad have agreed that the manifest fraud of the 20
November presidential elections must be peacefully remedied. About a
million Ukrainians have gathered in Kyiv to support a democracy. This
is a great opportunity for a democratic transformation of Europe's
largest country. Yet there must still be a legal and peaceful
resolution. Given that the electoral process was so thoroughly
corrupted last time, what can Europe do help insure that it is fair the
next time? A pragmatic European Union foreign policy would concentrate
on three goals.
First, the European Union should make clear its preference for a
repetition of the run-off presidential elections between Viktor
Yushchenko and Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovitch, and its opposition to
entirely new presidential elections. This may seem like a fine
distinction, but it is very important. Ukrainian President Leonid
Kuchma, knowing that his handpicked successor Yanukovitch was beaten
badly, will endorse entirely new presidential elections, and run a
different handpicked candidate. What's wrong with this? First, it runs
against common sense. Fraud should not help the people who organized
it, namely the administration of Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma. If
Kuchma chooses another candidate, he will be benefiting from his own
fraud. Second, new elections would likely be held months from now. The
regime hopes that this will allow it to reassert control over the media
and the security apparatus. Ukraine would lose its special
revolutionary moment, when true democracy is possible.
Second, the European Union should insist that the run-off be repeated in
the entire country, not simply in one or two regions. Prime Minister
Yanukovitch, the candidate who benefited from massive fraud to claim a
shameful victory, has declared his willingness to repeat the run-off in
his home region. This is clearly unsatisfactory. First, the fraud was
a centralized effort that affected regions all over the country. Only a
repeat of the run-off in the entire country can repair the fraud.
Second, Yanukovitch has obviously chosen the region where he does indeed
enjoy substantial support. Although he would certainly get fewer votes
in a repeated election, he would still win the region. This will create
the completely incorrect impression that he was somehow right all along.
While there are regions where Yanukovitch indeed won, Yushchenko in all
likelihood won more regions, and more votes. Ukrainians will never know
for sure without a fair repetition of the run-off between the two men,
throughout the entire country.
Third, the European organizations must familiarize themselves with the
kinds of electoral fraud that were perpetrated in Ukraine in November.
These included, but were not limited to, the following: repeat voting by
absentee ballot, repeat voting by busloads of voters who were
transferred from region to region, stuffing of ballot boxes by
pre-prepared ballots, intimidation of voters, intimidation of electoral
officials, beatings of electoral observors, and computer manipulations
of final results. In addition to the valuable reports by the OSCE and
other observers, these abuses have been discussed in the Russian and
Ukrainian press, in articles translated into English in Dominique Arel's
Ukraine List. Electoral observers, inside Ukraine and out, must be well
trained and prepared for a difficult assignment. This is hard work, but
it is a very small price to pay for an effective foreign policy that
supports the democratic process in Europe.
Timothy Snyder is an associate professor of history at Yale University
and a guest professor at the Institut fьr die Wissenschaften vom
Menschen in Vienna.