Tuesday, November 23, 2004

"This is a wonderful time here in Kyiv."

Sorry to go All Ukraine, All the Time here at On the Fence, but I’m just finding the actions of Yushchenko's orange-clad supporters truly inspiring. I was just a wee lad when the Berlin Wall started to come down, you see, so I'm just starting to feel the excitement now that the last bricks are being pulled away...

I don’t want to be too optimistic, but as the peaceful crowd soars to 200,000 people I’m crossing my fingers that the will of the people will be honoured and the crooked election results overturned. Here in the West a lot of people have been jumping to conclusions about inevitable bloodshed, but what I’m hearing from people on the ground is very hopeful.

Neeka’s Backlog is turning into the Salam Pax of Ukraine, with some riveting personal reporting from her residence near Independence Square where the protestors are massed. While she sounded scared last night, she is very positive today: “You should've seen the crowd walking past our windows, along Khreshchatyk and towards the Central Election Commission... This is a wonderful time here in Kyiv.”

My friend Ruslan Tracz, a young Manitoban who is currently interning at the English-language Kyiv Post, sounds like he’s having a wonderful time, but, of course, he’s a journalist and they have a weird sense of wonderful. He sent me a quick update while I was sleeping:
Bunch of cities across the country; ivano-frankivsk, vinnytsia, lviv, have gone against the CEC ruling and have stated that Yuschenko is now president. Kyiv city council has asked parliament not to accept the CEC results - ie. vote of no-confidence in the Central Election Committee.
On the main drag in the city a tent city has been erected - also in a symbol of solidarity around the main monument in independence square, a tent for each oblast, or region.
Unfortunately, most of the Kyiv Post original content seems to be for subscribers only. Though it has nothing to do with the election, you can read Ruslan’s interview with the man who started the first Avis Rent-a-Car franchise in Estonia in 1992, then expanded to Belarus, Lithuania, and finally Ukraine. It’s actually an interesting read as "Westernization and Liberalization of a former Soviet Republic as Seen Through the Eyes of Avis."

So, yes, I’m feeling like the situation is hopeful, albeit tenuously so. One of the few frustrations from my vantage point is that a lot of left-leaning bloggers have been looking at the situation in Ukraine through the distorted prism of anti-American or anti-Bush sentiment. Posts like this -- just one of a dozen similar ones I’ve come across -- point out the "irony" that President George W. Bush’s envoy has condemned the electoral fraud and is threatening to reevaluate the U.S.’s relationship with Ukraine if voting irregularities are not dealt with. Because, you see, Bush stole the election in the United States... Sigh.

And more radical commentators – those who clearly don’t have a clue – aren’t just pointing out the "irony," but seeing this as old-fashioned neoimperialistic interference by the West. This article on CMAQ, the Centre des médias alternatifs du Québec, is particularly foul. This is how messed up their worldview is: Their headline on their story about a sketchy election in Ukraine is “Republicans Cry ‘Election Fraud’ in Ukraine.” Yeah, Republicans… and Democrats, and Canadians and the Baltic States and the entire E.U.

I don’t think I realised until today how insidious the conspiracy theories about electoral fraud in the United States were. Until now, I mostly thought they were harmless sore-loser grumblings.

The fact is, the Bush administration is doing the right thing in regards to Ukraine, (Yes, I know, Bush foreign policy that I support unequivocally… What is the world coming to?) while someone like Putin has outright interfered by calling Viktor Yanukovych the winner before the results were even official. All these snarky insinuations about Bush give a misleading impression of equivalence...

UPDATE: Yushchenko declares victory, is symbolically sworn in as President.

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