ROAR: “Ukraine goes from chaos of orange revolution to strong power”
Russian media and observers are interested in the outcome of voting in the neighboring country. The State Duma will send deputies to observe the first round of elections, due to be held on January 17.
The mission of the Commonwealth of Independent States established to observe the voting is headed by Aleksandr Torshin, Deputy Speaker of the Federation Council, the upper house of the Russian parliament. He has visited several polling stations in rural areas and said that Ukrainian voters lack general information about the election itself, especially regarding the work of local polling stations. Torshin attributed this fact to insufficient financing of the election.
However, no Russian analysts and media outlets doubt that Ukrainian voters know the main presidential candidates very well. The question is rather who will be the best president “from Russia’s point of view.”
At the same time many stress that this time, unlike in previous elections, Moscow does not want to influence the vote in one way or another and is ready to work with whoever wins.
Analysts agree that no candidate will be able to win in the first round. Maksim Grigoryev, President of the Foundation for Studies of Democracy Problems, stressed that the present situation in Ukrainian politics levels the chances of the two main candidates, Viktor Yanukovich and Yulia Tymoshenko. Yanukovich, head of the Party of Regions, now leads in the polls.
It is unclear how many votes “the candidates of the second or even third echelons will receive and to whom they will hand their votes in the second round,” the analyst told Actualcomment.ru website. “There is [former parliament speaker and foreign minister Arseny] Yatsenyuk, there are other active people with big financial resources, and they all have a certain percentage of the electorate,” he said.
“Of course, different behind-the-scenes talks may have a profound effect,” Grigoryev said. He added that there is a “high probability of certain anti-constitutional activities from the incumbent president or other figures.” President Yushchenko should not be ignored. He may have little electoral support, but can boast of the advantage of administrative control, the analyst said.
Political scientist Sergey Markov also believes that the election campaign is going relatively smoothly, but the situation may change because “all sides are preparing for falsifications, especially those who have administrative leverage,” he told New Region news agency. “These forces are oriented to the president and prime minister,” he said.
“As far as I understand, everyone is preparing mass protest actions after the second round,” Markov said. He believes that after the chaos of “the orange revolution” Ukraine wants a strong power. “In the conditions of weak institutions a strong power inevitably turns into a strong personified power,” he added.
Markov described Tymoshenko as “the most likely candidate for personal dictatorship,” adding that Yanukovich is “too law-abiding for this role.” As for Yushchenko, he may become “the main catalyst for leaving the way of legal elections,” Markov said.
Some analysts predict that Yushchenko may even withdraw from the election, but others say that the president is hoping that several candidates will do just that in his favor. Gazeta daily wrote about “talks” that are allegedly under way, but stressed that so far no candidates have spoken about their desire to boost Yushchenko’s rating.
“During the last month of campaigning Yushchenko has been trying to attract Tymoshenko’s attention,” Infox.ru website said. However, she did not notice the president’s criticism, it added. Instead, Tymoshenko has spent most of her time criticizing Yanukovich, “who, in his turn, has ignored her,” the website said.
Whoever wins the election, one of the main problems for the next president will be mending ties with Russia, believes Sergey Mikheev of the Center for Political Technologies. The new head of state will have to take into account the “unsuccessful experience of Yushchenko’s orange presidency,’” he told Actualcomment.ru.
“It is quite clear that Yushchenko absolutely spoiled relations with Russia,” Mikheev said. “But the dividends that Ukraine has received from this policy are rather doubtful,” he added.
The West has been the main orientation for “the orange politicians,” “but they have not moved too far in that direction,” the analyst said. “I do not think we will get a pro-Russian president because there are no conditions for that,” he added. “Frankly speaking, we are not doing anything for it,” he said. “But I hope that it will be a sober-minded man, with less ideological prejudices than Yushchenko,” he said.
On the contrary, there are a lot of conditions for improving relations between Russia and Ukraine, Mikheev believes. “In fact, all the problems between the two countries exist in relations between representatives of ruling classes,” he added.
Aleksandr Brod, a human rights activist and member of the Public Chamber believes that Yanukovich is inclined to more close ties with Russia and is ready to defend Russian-speaking people in Ukraine. The leader of the Party of Regions has a more realistic approach “to the possibilities of Ukraine and its present difficult economic, social and political state,” Brod told New Region news agency.
Yanukovich may justify hopes of Ukrainians who have been disappointed during the past five years “when more attention has been paid to populism than to improving citizens’ living standards or the modernization of the country,” Brod said.
“The Russian-speaking population [in Ukraine] is worried about the language and historical memories that are being discriminated against,” Brod added. “Over the last years the memory of the Second World War has been desecrated, Nazi accomplices have been rehabilitated,” he said.
The Ukrainian authorities have been closing Russian schools, TV channels and “making offensive statements against Russia and its historical heritage,” Brod said. “I think this has created a very serious ground for people’s distrust of the present authorities,” he said.
Maksim Dianov, General Director of the Institute of Regional Problems thinks that the leader of the Communist Party, Petr Simonenko, is more “pro-Russian” than Yanukovich. The Communists are “the only party that has always supported Russia,” Dianov said. Others have been “either for the West, or for nationalism, or for Russia, and they move in this circle.”
Meanwhile, the most pro-Ukrainian of all candidates is Yulia Tymoshenko, Valery Khomyakov, General Director of the National Strategy Council, told New Region. Moscow needs a “pro-Ukrainian rather than pro-American president because Russia and Ukraine have many common tasks,” he said.
Sergey Borisov, RT