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    BRAMA News and Community Press

    BRAMA, Dec 3, 2004, 12:00 pm ET

    Op-Ed

    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.



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