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What's Next For Ukraine's Democracy?

What's Next For Ukraine's Democracy?Aftera runoff election plagued by fraud and a popular movement aroundopposition leader Viktor Yushchenko, Ukrainians cast their ballotson Dec. 26 in what Tufts experts say was a promising step fordemocracy in Ukraine.Medford/Somerville,Mass.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [01.03.05] Following what many considered to be a fraudulent electionin November, voters in the Ukraine demanded that the nation’spolls be reopened for a re-run of the country’s presidentialelection. Last month, they got their wish and elected reform candidateViktor Yushchenko as president over Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych.The historic election, say several Tufts experts, opens a newera for politics in the former Soviet republic.

“Whenthe people realize they have the power to expose the deceit underlyinga government prone to repression, it is the beginning of thatregime's end,” PeterAckerman – Fletcher School graduate and Tufts trustee– wrote in an op-ed published in The Boston Globe.

In the column– co-authored with Jack DuVall, who wrote the book AForce More Powerful: A Century of Nonviolent Conflict– Ackerman and DuVall examined how “an indigenousmovement mobilized millions of alienated civilians, enticed timelydefections, and became an irresistible emblem of the nation'sfuture, making it natural for officials to formalize the people'swill.”

In the wakeof what was widely perceived as a corrupt election on Nov. 21,Ukrainians took to the streets – wearing orange clothingas a symbol of solidarity with Yushchenko’s campaign –and demanded a new vote. Public figures ranging from policemento news broadcasters defected from the government’s partyline and openly expressed agreement with Yushchenko’s movement,Ackerman and DuVall wrote.

“Enthusiasmis good, but a movement's success comes from the quality of itsstrategic moves,” Ackerman – who has chaired Fletcher’sBoard of Overseers since 1996 – wrote in the Globe.“Ukrainian activists knew the regime would dodge and weave,hoping to exhaust resisters. Accordingly, the primary tactic wasa long-term occupation of space surrounding government institutions.”

The outcryfrom both Ukrainians and international observers prompted theUkraine’s parliament and Supreme Court to revisit the resultsamid numerous reports of election fraud.

“Withoutthe massive civilian-based resistance dubbed the Orange Revolution,the Ukrainian Supreme Court would not have invalidated the fraud-riddenelection of Nov. 21,” they wrote, applauding the organizers’use of nonviolent protest tactics.

“Itstarts when people decide they want to be free,” Ackermanand DuVall wrote.

One importantconsequence of this freedom could be a substantial evolution ofUkraine’s ties to Russia. Yanukovych ran on a platform ofstrengthening Slavic bonds with Russia, while Yushchenko advocatedgreater connection to Western nations and the European Union.

BruceHitchner, chair of Tufts’ classicsdepartment and an expert in international relations, said thatthe vote helped Ukraine not only foster its relationship withEurope but begin to change its relationship with Russia.

“Upuntil the recent problems with the election, I think it's fairto say that Europe was disinterested in bringing Ukraine intothe European Union anytime soon,” he told the MinnesotaPublic Radio program Marketplace. “This forcedUkraine to have to deal with Russia in a way that perhaps it didnot always want to but was compelled to by disinterest, and thatincluded massive Russian investment.”

In the wakeof the election and shifting politics in Ukraine, more of thatinvestment could come from abroad.

“Ukraine'slevel of investment with, for example, Europe and, to a lesserdegree, the United States will only grow,” Hitchner said.“Ukraine is a very encouraging place to invest for any numberof reasons.”

But Ukraine’srelationship with Russia may be forever altered.

“Ithas been in the Russians' interest, since the independence ofUkraine, to have a government in place that's favorable to it,”Hitchner told Marketplace. “Early on in the experienceof Ukrainian independence, there was an awful lot of pressureon some of the early governments to exceed to Russian interests,and it forced the resignation early on of one of the Ukrainianprime ministers and a prosecution.”

Future interactionsbetween Russia and Ukraine, however, will be much different, Hitchnersaid.

“Theevents of the last six months have made it much more difficult,if you will, for Russia to play the kind of political game ithas played up to now. And I suspect, from now on, you will seean increasingly more transparent process.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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