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5 Feb, 2010 06:21

Political apathy looming over Ukraine ahead of D-day

A Ukrainian presidential candidate is threatening mass protests over a recent change to electoral law ahead of Sunday's presidential run-off, but the public have grown tired of the constant political turmoil.

Irina Bida took active part in the 2004 Orange Revolution in Ukraine. She was among a massive crowd demanding changes.

“We stood over there and saw a Ukrainian flag replaced with an orange one. It was so exciting. People were so emotional and positive,” she recalls.

Irina holds back tears thinking of how the hopes of her countrymen got crushed by political infighting.

“I work in a toy store and my colleague told me yesterday she can’t afford buying cheese for herself, only for her baby. I sometimes want to cry because I can’t change anything. And this election will not change anything,” Irina Bida believes.

Their cry for change turned Ukrainian politics upside down. The people had their voice heard and elected Viktor Yushchenko as president after a flawed election.

Five years on, as the nation has grown disillusioned with the ideals of the Orange Revolution, many say that those events in 2004 were completely unique – something which cannot happen again.

“The passion for changes which existed back then has now transformed into a routine waiting for changes. People gave out a lot of energy in 2004 – the energy which needs to be recharged, like in a battery. And the society is a massive battery, which could take decades to recharge,” says political analyst and writer Dmitry Vydrin.

Just days before the vote, the party of the front-running candidate Viktor Yanukovich pushed through amendments to the electoral law. They became effective after current President Yushchenko, soon to step down, ratified the changes, thus completely isolating himself from his former ally – Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko.

Timoshenko was furious over the developments.

“If we are not able to technically provide a fair and free election, then I guarantee I will be taking people onto the streets. There’s no doubt about it,” Yulia Timoshenko promised.

Meanwhile, some now say that Timoshenko is considering withdrawing from the run-off. While the country is preparing to go to the polls again on Sunday, the apathy is changing to unease.