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