You win a little, you lose a little
According to the Washington Post, Yushchenko has vowed to prosecute criminal acts by politicians when he gets into office. This is rather a surprising announcement to make before the election, as prosecution is what Kuchma fears above all else, and has been one of the primary motivations behind all the election chicanery from the Kuchma camp. It does, however, show that Yushchenko is an honest and courageous politician, willing to lay his cards on the table and play for keeps, even at the risk of his own life, as we see from the recent reports of his poisoning by the opposition.
Also, I think it will prove to to be a powerful issue in the upcoming rematch. It has long been a sore point for Ukrainians that there is no accountability for crimes. None of the Soviet-era criminals responsible for the executions and enslavement of millions has ever been brought to justice, and in recent years, rampant crime by those in the highest offices has also been committed with impunity. This is either a gutsy move -- or a foolhardy one. We'll know when the votes are counted.
This brings us to the second important issue raised by this article -- the thorny problem of counting those pesky votes. Parliament has approved a far-reaching reform of election laws. Specifically addressed are a number of issues that were pivotal in the rigging of the recent elections, including the problem of absentee ballots and the hacking of the computer servers which relayed vote totals to Kiev.
In exchange for these reforms Yushchenko was forced to settle for a reduction of his presidential powers beginning in 2006. Although controversial in his own ranks, it was thought that this was the only way to push election reform through the heavily Kuchma-dominated parliament. I'll be holding my breath to see if in the meantime Kuchma and Putin haven't figured out some OTHER way to steal the election. According to Dick Morris, speaking on the Sean Hannity radio program, Yushchenko unquestionably won BOTH of the previous elections, including the initial one that had a number of additional candidates. But both were stolen by the Kuchma/Putin hacks.
Morris described how he had to meet in secret with Yushchenko in a neighboring East European country when he advised him on election strategy. Morris volunteered his services and was an unpaid consultant. Thanks, Dick, you are really making up for your sins when you worked for the Clintons.
Yushchenko Vows to Prosecute Political Crimes if Elected Opposition Leader Puts Priority on Ukraine's Admittance to the E.U.
By Peter Finn and Daniel Williams
Washington Post Foreign Service
Thursday, December 9, 2004; Page A22
KIEV, Ukraine, Dec. 8 -- Ukrainian opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko, vowing to restore "the letter and the spirit of the law," said Wednesday that if he were elected president, his government would prosecute select political and economic crimes that have been linked to the administration of President Leonid Kuchma, including the murder of a journalist.
In a wide-ranging interview Wednesday, the day parliament passed electoral reforms in advance of a second presidential runoff, Yushchenko said he would pursue an independent foreign policy and make winning Ukraine's admittance to the European Union his top priority. He said he wanted to ease the tensions that arose during the election campaign and its chaotic aftermath.
Yushchenko said that while he was not interested in a sweeping legal examination of the past, "there will be accountability" for certain acts. He mentioned the 2000 murder of Ukrainian investigative reporter Heorhiy Gongadze, whose decapitated body was found in a forest near the capital. Kuchma was allegedly tape-recorded by one of his bodyguards telling a cabinet minister to get rid of Gongadze. Kuchma has said the tapes were fabricated.
Yushchenko also pinpointed the privatization of a huge steel plant, the Kryvorizhstal factory in eastern Ukraine. It was sold to a consortium that included the president's son-in-law, at a heavily discounted price, according to the opposition.
"There will be accountability for these crimes," Yushchenko said. "Kryvorizhstal was stolen. The entire business community looked at it with shame. The letter and the spirit of the law in Ukraine will be restored."
But he stressed that many other controversial sales of state assets fell within the law of the time and would not be challenged. He spoke in offices that his campaign commandeered on the edge of Independence Square, the scene of 15 days of noisy but peaceful mass demonstrations on his behalf. He held two young daughters to his chest as he greeted his American-born wife, Kateryna Chumachenko, shortly before addressing the flag-waving throng outside. "I am very proud as a citizen because during these 15 days, one can say that a nation was established in Ukraine," he said in the interview. "This is a huge victory and I'm happy," he added.
In the dim light of the office, his face showed the effects of what he called a poisoning last summer by government authorities: He was scarred and blackened from forehead to chin. Doctors in Vienna who treated the 50-year-old former prime minister said they have not established the cause, but have not ruled out deliberate exposure to a toxin. Yushchenko played down the transformation of his formerly youthful good looks. "Eighty percent of the people in the same situation never came back to this world, even in a wheelchair. I didn't pay the highest price," he said. . .
. . .The reforms alter the composition of the Central Elections Commission as well as regional and local commissions, allowing each candidate equal representation at all levels. Absentee ballots, which Western monitors said were a major source of abuse in the last round of voting, will have to be signed by representatives of both Yushchenko and Yanukovych to be valid.
Voting at sites other than polling stations, by the disabled and others, will be restricted to prevent what was another major source of alleged fraud. Each campaign will get voter lists four days before the ballot to check for anomalies. The electronic transfer of vote counts from the regions to the center will have to match tallies sent by telegraph.
Yanukovych, who campaigned in eastern Ukraine Wednesday, said he was "not happy" with the parliamentary decision, describing it as a "soft coup d'etat."
Passed by a 401 to 21 vote, with 19 abstentions, the reforms will redistribute power among the president, the parliament and the country's administrative regions, ostensibly allowing no single branch of government to dominate political life as Kuchma has for the past 10 years. For Kuchma and the current government, the changes will provide a hedge against Yushchenko if he wins the presidency and uses his office to assault their political and economic position. . .
. . .In the interview, Yushchenko said he now wanted to harmonize relations between his domestic supporters and those that have opposed him, who are largely concentrated in parts of eastern and southern Ukraine that have large populations of Russian speakers. . .
. . .Some politicians in eastern Ukraine have raised the possibility of breaking from the rest of the country if Yushchenko wins the presidency. Yushchenko reasserted that Russia is a strategic partner of Ukraine's, but noted, "We don't want my country to be shown as a colony or feudal enclave." For many people, Russia is "a nostalgic thing, so we have to take this into account," he said.
Yushchenko said his primary policy goal was to join the European Union and anchor Western values in Ukraine.
He said he wanted "a non-corrupt power . . . an open and competitive market and freedom of speech" in a country where a "journalist's head is not cut off because his position is different from the authorities." Yushchenko appeared to choose his words carefully when discussing a recent parliamentary decision to pull Ukraine's 1,700 troops out of Iraq. He said their mission to help dispose of weapons of mass destruction was largely over because no such weapons have been found. Any withdrawal would be coordinated with the Iraqi government and "our partners and allies," and military participation would be replaced with financial aid and active diplomacy, he said. When he mounted the large stage to face the crowd at Independence Square, which was decked out in the orange colors of his campaign, tears came to Yushchenko's eyes. The demonstrators chanted his name --
"Yu-shchen-ko!" -- and he responded by placing his hand on his heart. "The glory of the orange revolution is glory to you," he said. "The most important part is: Everything we did, we did without a single drop of blood. "