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    BRAMA News and Community Press

    BRAMA, February 17, 2010, 9:00 AM ET

    Op-ed

    Tymoshenko Stands Up for Ukraine, Yushchenko Jumps Fence, Diaspora Mostly in Fool's Land
    By Boris Danik

    With the remnants of the Orange Coalition as her base, Yulia Tymoshenko came close to winning the runoff election in Ukraine on February 7. She was hampered by a swing vote of a few percent that went for Viktor Yanukovych, mainly as a result of collapsed economy in a world wide recession.

    Despite apparently losing the election, Ms. Tymoshenko has reunited the people for a Ukrainian agenda, at least for a moment, by pulling together essentially the same constituency, in the same regions, that voted for Viktor Yushchenko in 2004.

    President Yushchenko's antics after the round-one voting seem to have had little impact. "[The president] sees [Mr] Yanukovich as the lesser of evils for Ukraine," said Vadim Karasiov, an adviser to Mr. Yushchenko (Financial Times, February 5). The next day: "President Yushchenko is so angry with Ms. Tymoshenko that he is urging the public to cast the ballot, "Against all" (The New York Times, February 6).

    When push came to shove, as in the this presidential runoff, the patriotically conscious Ukrainians – the national democrats, the nationalists, the socialists of the Orange stripe, and others – rallied for Yulia Tymoshenko, as they did for the Orange cause in 2004.

    With a 25 percent vote in the first round, Ms. Tymoshenko was trailing the combined Yanukovych and Symonenko (the Communist Party candidate) vote by 13.8 percent. That's the gap she had to overcome in the runoff (the Communist vote would almost certainly end up for pro-Russian Yanukovych).

    The "Against all" ballot would take 5.5 percent of the total, shrinking the source of additional votes for the two finalists. Tymoshenko had to get 73.6 percent of the remainder to break event with Yanukovych (The vote turnout was about the same in both rounds).

    By pulling to within 3 percent in the runoff, she got 68 percent of that vote.

    Where did it come from? According to exit polls, the Tihipko basket became divided equally. The sum vote of nuisance candidates (about 6 percent) split equally and/or took up part of "Against all."

    That's why Tymoshenko's gain toward closing the gap had to come from voters who in the first round went for Yatseniuk, Yushchenko, and Tiahnybok. And they went for Tymoshenko, despite the cold shoulder from their first round preferred candidates, because they understood the stakes.

    The Prime Minister advanced with within 3 percent of a tie in the runoff by getting 88.5 percent of that group's vote. To close the gap, she would have to get almost 100 percent.

    That's not what the Diaspora would produce for Ms. Tymoshenko – even if it did matter. Its post-DP era curators usually suffer a culture shock when her name is mentioned. The Diaspora's political maturity shines at anniversary celebrations and medal presentations, and is less agile in election politics, socioeconomic and ethnic conflict resolution issues that often determine the outcomes.

    The Ukrainian Weekly, after editorially denouncing Ms. Tymoshenko last summer (June 24, 2009), has now parsimoniously endorsed her candidacy, one week before the runoff.

    On the other hand, the January 29 editorial of Svoboda's rarified atmosphere has equivocated, and dwelled on perceptions rather than the issues.

    Svoboda's inability to grasp the substantive (in contrast to the declarative faзade) is no surprise. It always downplayed President Yushchenko's decisions that ignited the demolition of the Orange coalition.

    His own personality traits were the probable cause of the obsessive antagonism toward Ms. Tymoshenko and the putdown of Oleksandr Moroz, the Socialist Party's Orange partner who could (and did) tip the balance of power, but was treated like flunky by the president.

    That was a textbook exhibit of a failed leadership at the very top. It erased the Orange parliamentary victory of April 2006 and scuttled President George Bush's planned visit to Kyiv that summer. It was not the kind of decorum acceptable to NATO's gate keepers. And yet, "Ukraine will not have a better president", editorialized Svoboda (January 1, 2010). Instead of whining about NATO's deference to Moscow, the Diaspora should try to think.

    Recent reports have it that Mr. Yushchenko is now angling for the parliament speaker's job. That would be another disaster.

    Dr. Boris Danik
    North Caldwell, NJ
    January 31, 2010

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