Ultima Thule

In ancient times the northernmost region of the habitable world - hence, any distant, unknown or mysterious land.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Orange Revolution one year later -- democracy is alive and kicking

By Aussiegirl

Ukraine is preparing to celebrate the first anniversary of the Orange Revolution on November 22nd. Since those heady days in the slush and snow of a chilly November, when Ukrainians in the millions turned out in the streets to demand a fair election, a bit of the bloom has come off the orange, but hope is alive, and so is democracy.

The year has seen many ups and downs, and, like in any democracy, not a little bit of turmoil, infighting, political intrigue and controversy. Yushchenko has probably set some sort of record in the number of foreign trips he has taken in his globe-trotting determination to win support for Ukraine's eventual entry in the WTO and the European Union. An ambitious reform agenda naturally ran into some roadblocks. A wary populace, especially in the eastern regions which voted heavily for his rival, Yanukovych, had to be wooed and won over. Economic reforms and a cleaning out of corrupt practices was instituted, and all these efforts met with mixed success.

In the process Yushchenko fired his Prime Minister, the flamboyant and ambitious Yulia Tymoshenko, and has put in place a new PM and a new cabinet.

The bad news is that democracy is messy -- the good news is -- democracy is working in Ukraine. There have been no assassinations of crusading journalists. People feel free to grumble and complain without fear. Parties squabble, bureaucrats stall, oligarchs and businessment lobby for their interests with government agencies -- in short -- democracy is fully entrenched in Ukraine, with all its warts, faults, shortcomings and foibles. Churchill once famously remarked that democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the rest. And nowhere is this more true than in Ukraine one year after the revolution.

Yulia Tymoshenko has not been assassinated. She has not been exiled. She is not in prison. She has not, most importantly of all, been poisoned. She is happily organizing her own party and preparing for the upcoming elections, and will most likely stand and run against Victor Yushchenko. That is as it should be. Moscow is not running things. Neither Yushchenko nor Tymoshenko is taking orders from Putin. Ukraine is putting its own messy house in order, just like every other democracy in this world. This is a huge step forward for Ukraine. And no one should be unduly disappointed that miraculous reforms have not been instituted. Revolutionary changes can only be instituted by dictators who impose their will on the populace. When you are working within the system, it's a slow and arduous process.

And there's the nub of the matter. It's the process of democracy that won the day in Freedom Square in Kiev in the snows of November, and one year later, democracy is still alive and kicking. For that all Ukrainians can be proud as they head to their one year anniversary.

1 Comments:

At 6:47 PM, Anonymous Pindar said...

It's hard to believe that an entire year has passed since, as you so nicely put it, "those heady days in the slush and snow of a chilly November" when Ukraine raised its head and blew away the cobwebs of tyranny and corruption. And you, Aussiegirl, performed an invaluable task in those days of informing us of what was going on, who the players were, what was at stake, and, most importantly, introducing us by and large ignorant Americans to an old and rich culture. We learned about Stalin's monstrous famine that claimed so many innocent lives--thankfuly, not those of your parents--and what a painful path Ukraine has had to follow for so many centuries, to the barbarous point of not even being to speak its own language. But that is hopefully all behind us. You have written an excellent overview of what has happened in these last 12 months. Let me quote you: democrary is fully entrenched in Ukraine, with all its warts, faults, shortcomings and foibles. Churchill once famously remarked that democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the rest. And nowhere is this more true than in Ukraine one year after the revolution. Well, the second year of the Orange Revolution will shortly begin, and we all will be relying on you, Aussiegirl, to keep us informed of what's going on, and how it all fits together in the larger historical picture.

 

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