Exit polls, the Ukraine…

Another election, another battle over the results. The story is all over the mainstream media, though the Ukraine almost never shows up on the radar otherwise.

The election was between an incumbent who apparently is backed by Russia (Viktor Yanukovych) and a “pro-Western reformer” (Viktor Yushchenko), and it was… ahem… very close. According to the Globe and Mail

Another election, another battle over the results. The story is all over the mainstream media, though the Ukraine almost never shows up on the radar otherwise.

The election was between an incumbent who apparently is backed by Russia (Viktor Yanukovych) and a “pro-Western reformer” (Viktor Yushchenko), and it was… ahem… very close. According to the Globe and Mail
Mr. Yanukovych got 49.46 per cent of Sunday’s vote, against Mr. Yushchenko’s 46.61 per cent, the commission said at a meeting in giving the final results. Supporters of the prime minister at the meeting began chanting “Yanukovych!” and waving his blue and white campaign scarves.

Western election observers said the vote was seriously flawed and did not meet democratic standards, and exit polls showed a victory for Yushchenko, a pro-western reformer.

Mr. Yushchenko told his supporters Wednesday that a symbolic oath of office that he took a day earlier “was the first step, but we need to carry on to the end. God forbid anybody doubts that we will win.”

Yushchenko does not trust the Central Electoral Commission, which has actually just declared the incumbent (Yanukovych) the winner. But the Yushchenko people are ready for a fight and “have taken over blocks of Kiev’s main street, setting up a giant tent camp.” Meanwhile the Yanukovych people are setting up their own tent camps.

There probably was fraud – the G & M published reports from Canadian parliamentarians who were observers:

In the city of Mikolaev, the two men travelled to a polling station at a remand centre that was supposed to have two ballot boxes assigned to it. However, in a side room, the MPs saw three more boxes, two without official election seals. When staff at the polling station realized there were international observers in the room, one of the staff members tried to cover the polling boxes with a jacket as Mr. Goldring snapped pictures.

The irregularities are even weirder. The opposition candidate was famous for his good looks, but his face deteriorated rapidly on the campaign trail:

What may have been the most crucial electoral violation, however, would be the one most difficult to prove. Mr. Yushchenko was knocked off the campaign trail for three weeks in September by an apparent poisoning that he says was an attempt to kill him. He fell ill after a dinner with the head of Ukraine’s security service, and returned with his face badly disfigured after spending time in an Austrian hospital.

A couple of notes here. The electoral commission does not seem to be trustworthy and and there seems to be considerable evidence of fraud by the incumbent. There is also a clear geopolitical tension here. The US has backed “pro-western reformers” in various ways to undermine the possibilities that independence from Russian influence after the end of the Cold War would translate into independence from US influence. Each “pro-western reformer” that beats the old guard incumbents in Eastern Europe is another support for the US and a loss to Russia (and a loss to Western Europe). NATO expansion into Eastern Europe is a big part of this, but so is the fact that “Old Europe” is the only part of Europe that the US was able to cajole into joining the Iraq invasion and occupation. This part of the Eastern European story is not as well known or understood, in part because of the untrustworthiness of sources on all sides. For example, I see no reason to have confidence in the incumbent or the electoral commission. But I also have heard that the electoral observer for the OCSE is a NATO type from the UK, George Bruce, hardly a disinterested party given NATO’s ambitions in the region. I’ve also heard that the youth movement in Ukraine, backing the “pro-western reformer”, has activists trained by their equivalents in Georgia and Serbia, who, with the help of George Soros (and maybe the NED?), also helped deliver their countries from authoritarian nationalists into the hands of the west.

The Ukranian people are fighting hard for democracy. It seems that the powers in the region and in the world agree on keeping that option off the table.

Hopefully folks who know more about this can chime in in the comments section.

Justin Podur

Author: Justin Podur

Author of Siegebreakers. Ecology. Environmental Science. Political Science. Anti-imperialism. Political fiction. Teach at York U's FES. Author. Writer at ZNet, TeleSUR, AlterNet, Ricochet, and the Independent Media Institute.

5 thoughts on “Exit polls, the Ukraine…”

  1. Hey, thanks for this
    Hey, thanks for this overview Justin. It’s important to keep track of these events, but it should be noted that the ‘pro-Western reformers’ that are presented as alternatives to ‘authoritarian nationalists’ are in most cases ‘authoritarian nationalists’ themselves.

    This is the case for the regime that took power in Serbia in the aftermath of the October 5, 2000 election coup – currently the new regime has reinstated old 19th century royalist flags, and the education minister has introduced creationism into the sylabus of school, while the outdated anthem ‘God of Justice’ was adopted once again as the state anthem (which as you can imagine is doing marvels for ethnic reconciliation).

    It is also the case in Georgia, where Shakashvili has sparked a renewal of ethnic conflicts in Georgia with Adjar, Ossetian and Abkhaz minorities that oppose the unitarist policies of the government. The violence threatens to spill over into the type of ethnic bloodletting that triggered the conflicts in Georgia in the first place when Zviad Gamsakurdias militant brand of ethnic chauvinism triggered the conflicts in these breakaway regions.

    And it appears to be the case with Yushchenko, who heads the ‘OUR UKRAINE’ party which includes the far-right wing ‘Rukh’ (who’s Youth wing agitates for the banning of the Communist Party of Ukraine, one of the largest parliamentary forces in the country, and who’s tactics and ideology resemble those of neo-nazis).

    It should be noted that this is the case with PORA as well, the Ukrainian ‘youth movement’ funded by Soros, NED and other shaddy Western sources and that is modeled on OTPOR and KMARA in Serbia and Georgia respectively (as well as OK-98 from Slovakia). On its website PORA openly calls the elections a geopolitical event and agitates for incorporation into NATO. Its manifesto includes the lines: “Time [i.e. PORA] gave birth to [a] Wave. [A] Wave of Freedom that will wash away the dirt, that will purify the soul of Ukraine”

    Most of the minorities in Ukraine (concentrated in the South and East), it should be noted, voted for Yanukovych because the ‘pro-Western reformer’ Yuschenko wants to abrogate minority rights. Yanukovych favors a raprochement between Slavic speaking countries of Belarus, Ukraine and Russia.

    Any raprochement between the peoples of this region is seen as a big threat to NATO’s designs for the region, just as Arab unity is seen as a threat to Western attempts to dominate the MIddle East. The interests again are oil, gas, and natural resources and Ukraine is a critical geopolitical pivot upon which this game rests. The West seems to be seeking to trigger a conflict at the moment which will only lead to bloodshed. Progressives should be demanding a halt to foreign interference in the Ukraine, as the situation escalates.

    Yuschenko has already twice raised the spectre of ‘civil war’ in his speaches, while the Yanukovych block and outgoing premier Leonid Kuchma have called for negotiations (they have no interest in precipitating a conflict with the international media ranged against them).

    Yes, Kuchma is an autocrat, but the ‘reformers’ that are being put up as an alternative are much worse and are more aligned to implementing an open colonial project for the Ukrainian people and the other peoples of the European East. What makes Kuchma/Yanukovych ‘nationalist autocrats’ is not so much that there policies are nationalist – actually there’s plenty of contrary evidence to that effect – but that they are blocking the free implementation of Western geostrategic designs in the region.

    Kuchma, himself is relatively pliant to Western demands, but he’s been blocking up the privatization of key state resources and the penetration of Western capital in favor of local business oligarchs. While the Clinton administration was happy with autocrats like Kuchma (Ukraine) and Shevardnadze (Georgia), and was willing to stomach occasional disagreements on policy, the Bush administration is clearly seeking the installation of much more militant pro-Western puppets in these geopolitically vital regions in order to implement the project of extending the free market model (look at the recent Senate resolution on Ukraine that was passed urging Bush impose targeted sanctions if ‘elections’ are manipulated and to promote further free market reforms).

    The end result will not be more democracy for the peoples of the region, but the deepening of catastrophic neoliberal reforms that have decimated the population and quality of life in the region, the further exploitation of its resources and the progressive incorporation of the regions military machinery into the security architecture of Empire.

    It is clear that there is currently no such thing as a FREE ELECTION anywhere in the world given the tremendous amount of interference in all elections by external, and especially Western actors. There is no such thing as a level playing field and we must begin to demystify all this ‘election’ nonsense. What is interesting about all the reports – including the OSCE’s preliminary findings – is that they are limited to anecdotal evidence. Nowhere is there an actual breakdown of the figures of who voted where and how and how many votes are actually in dispute (this was the pattern in Haiti as well, where despite the election irregularities, the Lavalas party had clearly won the election).

    Palestinian friends I spoke to recently from the Balata camp all told me that they all think Abu Mazen will win the next elections even though they don’t know anyone who will vote for him. Their logic? “He is America’s man, they will elect him. IT’s that simple”… IN the age of Empire this is all that elections really mean…Hopefully the people’s currently inhabiting the colonial perifiry will be able to look to the model in Venezuela in order to reclaim their self-determination…It is these type of efforts that we should be supporting in Eastern Europe. The movement for genuine self-determination and social justice in the region may be small, but it is worth working on in order to build more solid links for the future…

  2. thanks justin,
    It just seems

    thanks justin,

    It just seems interesting that the US is so involved… as you say there are very real geopolitical considerations here.

    But what they essentially seem to be talking about is Russian influence in the election, through various ways, that has made it unfair. I read that the Russian ambassador to the US was even summoned by US govt officials or something to explain why the russian govt had congratulated Yanukovych as the winner so quickly…

    Such public concern about Russian influence by the same people who are talking about holding elections in countries occupied by thousands and thousands of their troops seems quite ironic. But none of the mainstream media seem to have brought up this pretty glaring contradiction.

    Hopefully some of this can be brought into the democratic movement so it does not ‘deliver’ Ukraine to another power block, as you say…

  3. I remember a few months back
    I remember a few months back reading an article about Russian policy in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. What struck me was the parallels between their rhetoric and that of Western powers. All the stuff about democracy, turning over a new leaf etc. Of course that all sounds pretty hollow if you have the misfortune of living in Chechnnya.

    My point (such as it is) is that we should be careful of mistaking leaders seeking to move away from the West for leaders moving towards genuine independence.

  4. i can’t speak for the
    i can’t speak for the ukraine, but friends who live in or regularly travel through some of the other parts of eastern europe (such as hungary and poland) have long reported to me that the majority of people in those countries sincerely believed that the bush administration would reward them (primarily in favorable conditions for aid and trade) for going into iraq.

    as the governments pull out one by one at present, it would appear they’ve realized their naivete.

  5. so, one of the objections is
    so, one of the objections is “extreme media bias”?!
    somewhat of an ironic objection coming from North America. The Canadian press repeatedly stated that no question Martin would lead. And in Alberta it was even worse. Klein would win, it was all about how much we would win by.
    How are people supposed to think about alternatives to the status quo when they are repeatedly told and reminded that the outcome is pre-determined? It’s just another form of control and propaganda.

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