Ukraine’s Election Farce

()As we go to print, Viktor Yushchenko has claimed victory in the re-run for the Ukrainian presidential elections held on December 26, 2004. On the other hand, Viktor Yanukovich, declared the winner in the last elections, annulled by the Ukrainian supreme court, has refused to concede defeat, claiming that there were huge violations and that five million old and sick voters could not make it to the polls because of questionable electoral regulations. While the election monitors from the imperialist countries have given the last round a clean bill of health, those from the CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) found evidence of huge electoral fraud that favoured Yushchenko. In view of the enormous stakes that imperialist countries, on the one hand, and Russia, on the other hand, have in the outcome of these elections, it is very unlikely that the matter will be settled peacefully – some interesting times ahead.

As has been widely recognised, the Ukrainian election held in September and now due to be re-run on Boxing Day, the 26 of December, expressed the battle between western imperialism’s attempts to colonise huge areas of the former Warsaw Pact – i.e., to bring it within its sphere of economic and military strategic influence – while at the same time shutting Russia out from these areas as far as it is possible for them to do so. However, many of the Warsaw Pact countries that were courted by western imperialism with promises of an idyllic future life for everybody, have been gravely disillusioned, as is pointed out by Mark Almond in The Guardian of 7 December:

“The hangover from People Power is shock therapy. Each successive crowd is sold a multimedia vision of Euro-Atlantic prosperity by western-funded ‘independent’ media to get them on the streets. No one dwells on the mass unemployment, rampant insider dealing, growth of organised crime, prostitution and soaring death rates in successful People Power states. …

“In 1989, our security services honed an ideal model as a mechanism for changing regimes, often using genuine volunteers. Dislike of the way communist states constrained ordinary people’s lives [to the average petty bourgeois, life under the conditions of socialism is naturally dreadful] led me into undercover work, but witnessing mass pauperisation and cynical opportunism in the 1990s bred my disillusionment.

“Grown cynical, the dissident types who embezzled the cash to fund, say, a hotel in the Buda hills did less harm than those that launched politico-media careers. In Poland, the ex-dissident Adam Michnik’s Agora media empire – worth €400m today – grew out of the underground publishing world of Solidarity, funded by the CIA in the 1980s. His newspapers now back the war in Iraq, despite its huge unpopularity among Poles.

“Meanwhile, from the shipyard workers who founded Solidarity in 1980 to the Kolubara miners of Serbia, who proclaimed their town ‘the Gdansk of Serbia’ in October 2000, millions now have plenty of time on their hands to read about their role in history.

“People Power is, it turns out, more about closing things than creating an open society. It shuts factories but, worse still, minds. Its advocates demand a free market in everything – except opinion…”

If this much is apparent to an ex British spy, how much more is it apparent to the people of the former communist countries! Many ex-Warsaw Pact countries are considering whether they might not be considerably better off returning to the embrace of Mother Russia, especially where their bourgeoisies require protection from naked competition on the part of western imperialist concerns. The Ukraine has never left the Russian fold, but it is obviously aware of the fate of countries which have, and for this reason the seductive, money-no-object courting on the part of western imperialism has by no means met with the overwhelming success the would-be seducers had been hoping for. Hence the failure of the western imperialist backed candidate, Yushchenko, otherwise known as Bushchenko, to win the elections held in September 2004.

Having spent considerable sums promoting their candidate, it is not surprising that western imperialism was outraged by his defeat, and screamed electoral fraud. From the definition of fraud the western media obviously exclude the millions spent on trying to secure the victory of a candidate favoured by the west, but the scenario is so farcical that even a bourgeois liberal newspaper such as The Guardian, which is normally only too keen to uphold the antics of ´liberal´ imperialism, has published a swingeing critique of the attack mounted by western imperialism on Yanukovich´s electoral success:

“Whether it is Albania in 1997, Serbia in 2000, Georgia last November or Ukraine now, our media regularly peddle the same fairy tale about how youthful demonstrators manage to bring down an authoritarian regime, simply by attending a rock concert in a central square. Two million anti-war demonstrators can stream though the streets of London and be politically ignored, but a few tens of thousands in central Kiev are proclaimed to be ‘the people’, while the Ukrainian police, courts and governmental institutions are discounted as instruments of oppression.

“The western imagination is now so gripped by its own mythology of popular revolution that we have become dangerously tolerant of blatant double standards in media reporting. Enormous rallies have been held in Kiev in support of the prime minister, Viktor Yanukovich, but they are not shown on our TV screens: if their existence is admitted, Yanukovich supporters are denigrated as having been ‘bussed in’. The demonstrations in favour of Viktor Yushchenko have laser lights, plasma screens, sophisticated sound systems, rock concerts, tents to camp in and huge quantities of orange clothing; yet we happily dupe ourselves that they are spontaneous.

“Or again, we are told that a 96% turnout in Donetsk, the home town of Viktor Yanukovich, is proof of electoral fraud. But apparently turnouts of over 80% in areas which support Viktor Yushchenko are not. Nor are actual scores for Yushchenko of well over 90% in three regions, which Yanukovich achieved only in two. And whereas Yanukovich’s final official score was 54%, the western-backed president of Georgia, Mikhail Saakashvili, officially polled 96.24% of the vote in his country in January. The observers who now denounce the Ukrainian election welcomed that result in Georgia, saying that it “brought the country closer to meeting international standards”.

“The blindness extends even to the posters which the ‘pro-democracy’ group, Pora, has plastered all over Ukraine, depicting a jackboot crushing a beetle, an allegory of what Pora wants to do to its opponents.

“Such dehumanisation of enemies has well-known antecedents – not least in Nazi-occupied Ukraine itself, when pre-emptive war was waged against the Red Plague emanating from Moscow – yet these posters have passed without comment. Pora continues to be presented as an innocent band of students having fun in spite of the fact that – like its sister organisations in Serbia and Georgia, Otpor and Kmara – Pora is an organisation created and financed by Washington.” (John Laughland, ´The revolution televised´, 27 November 2004).

Given that it is generally well understood that this election has nothing to do with the ´freedom´ which is imperialism’s usual catchword in this propaganda war, we are nevertheless still being distracted from the real issues by the diversionary flurry of Yushchenko´s alleged poisoning which is of course being attributed to Yanukovich´s “entourage”, in particular the Russian government, with dark allusions to “KGB methods” conjuring up the spectres of cold war rhetoric. All we can say is that if someone associated with the KGB had set out to kill Yanukovich they would have succeeded, and, if said cold war rhetoric is to be believed at all, no trace of how they had done it would have been left! All in all the poisoning story is highly implausible although it is possible it will succeed in getting some mud to stick. Furthermore, in a televised debate between Yushchenko and Yanukovich on 20 December, while Yanukovich endeavoured to direct the discussion towards the question of the Ukraine´s economic interests, Yushchenko hammered on entirely in personam, referring time and again to his past criminal convictions and claiming that his government, like the present one, would be a government of crooks and thieves. This is of course true, since in all the ex-communist countries the bourgeoisie has arisen through theft of state property, but how could Yushchenko, if he wins the re-run, be anything different, given that he is certainly not advocating a return to socialism, and he himself benefited greatly from privatisation? However, although Yushchenko made much of the fact he has no criminal convictions and was therefore to be considered as the ´honest´ candidate, the Financial Times of 27 November tells us otherwise (‘Kiev’s vote of protest´):

“… After the Soviet Union’s collapse, Mr Yushchenko emerged as a banker and in 1963 became head of the central bank. The bank was involved in a damaging row with the International Monetary Fund over the use of IMF loans to falsify the country’s credit position and make secret, low-interest loans to politically favoured banks. He survived the scandal.”

Quite apart from the very dubious nature of Yushchenko´s honesty, what does it mean when he condemns the various oligarchs who back Yanukovich as crooks? In view of his plans for ´liberalisation´, i.e., opening the Ukraine´s markets to untrammelled competition from western multinationals, it clearly indicates he is not going to defend the present oligarchs against foreign competition. He may even be prepared to divest them of their ill-gotten gains in order to sell these to foreign imperialist concerns, who will undoubtedly reward him handsomely. It is noteworthy that, faced with the barrage of anti-Yanukovich propaganda imperialist funding has let loose on the electorate, quite a few of Yanukovich´s former supporters among the oligarchy, including his own son-in-law, have got cold feet and have in the last month started distancing themselves from him in the belief he could well lose the re-run.

Why is it that western imperialism considers it worth while investing millions in buying the outcome of the Ukrainian election? The answer is spelt out in the Sunday Herald of 28 November, 2004 (Trevor Royle, ´Great powers decide the nation’s fate´) in the following terms:

“Not for the first time in Ukraine’s long and troubled history, the crisis is about more than the future of the country and its people. The outcome will affect the dynamics of the region for years and the eventual choice of government will have global implications. If the country swings to the West under Yushchenko, it will open the floodgates for other trans-Carpathian countries to clamour to join the EU. If the pro-Moscow candidate Yanukovich gets the nod, his Russian sponsors will not only secure their western frontier and their access to the Black Sea, they will also be able to consolidate their influence in the Caucasus and the Balkans. …

“A Russian diplomatic source put the matter into a domestic setting when he told the Sunday Herald: ´Our Black Sea fleet is in Sevastopol and Ukraine forms part of our western border. Its future is inextricably bound up with our view of the world. Imagine how you would feel if France got into bed with a power which might not be friendly to Britain´…”

And further: “When Russia lost the leadership of the Soviet Union it also forfeited its role in the world. Ever since the walls of communism came tumbling down in 1991, Moscow has seen the carve-up of its eastern empire and has been forced to watch the inexorable rise of the US as the world’s only superpower. At the same time it has seen former clients and allies such as Poland and the Baltic states fall under the influence of the EU and Nato, so it feels as though it is slowly being encircled by the Western powers. Amid growing concern that Moldova, Georgia and even oil-rich Kazakhstan might be the next to apply to join the EU or Nato club, some State Duma (lower house) members have been claiming that the eastward expansion is the biggest threat to their country since the second world war and that the time has come to stop it…

“.. [Putin] needs to ensure the safety of the Siberian gas line which runs through Ukraine to supply 80% of Russia’s gas exports to France, German and Italy.”

While the western media accuse Russia of interfering in the Ukrainian election, it is perfectly clear that US and European spending in buying what to them is a favourable result does not count as interference! Moreover, The Times of 25 November 2004 says (‘East West showdown looms as poll turmoil divides Ukraine’) western interference is far more blatant than ‘merely’ bribing an electorate:

“Behind the scenes, US officials have warned Kiev that without a satisfactory resolution, Washington is ready to withhold nearly $150 million in annual aid.

“It would also slap visa restrictions and other sanctions on members of Ukraine´s political and economic elite – an issue that may cut ice with Leonid Kuchma, the outgoing President, who would face retirement without being able to travel to Western Europe or the United States”.

Even if Bushchenko does this time manage to win the re-run, however, all will not necessarily be plain sailing for western imperialism. Russia still holds some trump cards and in particular, with overwhelming support for Yanukovich in the south and east – the areas of greatest strategic interest to the west because of their proximity to that conduit of Caspian oil, the Black Sea – might well be tempted to secede and attach themselves to Russia. Furthermore, Putin is in a position to give support to opponents of US imperialism throughout the Middle East and Afghanistan if he was pushed too far, something he has not done up to present in the name of co-operation in the war against terror. In return for Russia’s neutrality, US imperialism has undertaken not to support Chechen separatists, for instance, but it is becoming clear that all that US imperialism is doing is not OPENLY supporting them, because arming and advising them via Saudi Arabia it certainly is. It must be remembered that Russia is in a position to lend support with nuclear proliferation should it be pushed into a corner. Bush’s aggressive expansionism in co-operation on this point with the European Union is actually leading to a most dangerous world situation.

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