Orange Revolution implodes to leave a nation in despair
Their leaders are at war, their country is verging on bankruptcy and the Russians are growling on their doorstep. Ukrainians have been plunged into disillusion and despair by the lethal combination...
Their leaders are at war, their country is verging on bankruptcy and the Russians are growling on their doorstep. Ukrainians have been plunged into disillusion and despair by the lethal combination as they witness the death throes of the Orange Revolution that brought President Viktor Yushchenko and Prime Minister Julia Tymoshenko to power.
Now, it seems, the last vestiges of the idealism which fuelled the peaceful revolution four years ago are going to the wall as Mr Yushchenko insists on calling a third parliamentary election in as many years, in a move blocked by his rival, the Prime Minister.
Ms Tymoshenko, who has described the President`s election plan as "reckless" for raising political tensions at a time of dire financial crisis that has devastated Western institutions, went on television on Sunday night to urge political leaders to unite behind her to shield the country from economic meltdown. She warned that holding a parliamentary election in December would "destroy the country".
But few top politicians heeded her call to attend a unity meeting yesterday. Those who joined her were members of her own bloc, the Communist Party and some rebels of the president`s Our Ukraine party. "It is a great shame that there has been insufficient wisdom to form a united team," Ms Tymoshenko, clearly irritated, told a news conference. "But I feel we have seen a first attempt."
Ukraine`s government has had to rescue two top banks, the national currency`s rate has fallen 12 per cent, the stock market is in free fall and the country is seeking a multibillion loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to stabilise the financial sector.
And with relations between Ukraine and Russia having suffered over Mr Yushchenko`s support for Georgia during last August`s Caucasus war, the Russian gas giant Gazprom has now suggested next year`s price for gas imports could soar to $400 (pounds230) per 1,000 cubic metres from $179.50 now.
Ms Tymoshenko suggested the IMF, which sent a delegation for talks last week in Ukraine that are continuing this week, should make an aid package of up to $14bn dependent on the President abandoning his snap election plans.
At the start of 2005, the pro-Western Mr Yushchenko had massive support inside Ukraine, and the entire Western world seemed to be in love with the Orange Revolution. But he has managed to squander that immense goodwill in a stunning fashion by reneging on almost all of his election promises, particularly to fight rampant official corruption and to put behind bars some of the Mafia-like politicians and businessmen who have amassed huge fortunes by crooked means.
Over the past two years the relationship between the President and Prime Minister has degenerated from occasional snide bickering to a torrent of vicious insults and accusations so that talk of a revived Orange coalition is greeted with a cynicism that has increasingly squeezed out the optimism ushered in by the 2004 pro-democracy protests. Yet another election would further ratchet up that cynicism.
One young businessman, Ihor Tokarivsky, who for weeks during the Orange Revolution braved freezing temperatures and the danger that force would be used to disperse the demonstrators, said: "Yushchenko and Tymoshenko had everything and people like me still continued to support them despite the shameful public fights and the fact that they failed to keep their promises to lock up some of the criminals who have ripped off this country.
"But this time I`ve had enough and I don`t think I`ll vote at all and I have lots of friends who feel the same. I don`t believe any more that politicians will change the country for the better. Everyone just has to look out for themselves and their own families."
One former member of Ms Tymoshenko`s BYuT party said: "Whatever the elections produce, little will change. Most MPs are there to make money and politics is only of concern to them insofar as they can use their positions to advance their business interests. It is hard to explain to a Westerner the level of cynicism prevalent in parliament. I wouldn`t call it a parliament; rather it`s Ukraine`s most exclusive business club."
Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service