Expect fraud

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Dec. 10, 2009, 11 p.m. |
Since few high-flying criminals are in jail, another fraudulent vote is possible. This newspaper remembers all too well the Western do-gooders who proclaimed their job was done in Ukraine when the Orange Revolution team assumed power in January 2005. In fact, the actual job of democracy-building had only just begun and has gotten even tougher in the intervening years.

The revolution may have been over the moment that Victor Yushchenko agreed to dilute presidential powers and muddle executive authority through constitutional changes that ended the peaceful uprising against the rigged election of Nov. 21, 2004. We also harbor strong suspicions that he agreed not to seek justice for crimes committed during the era of his predecessor, President Leonid Kuchma.

Let’s just start with the election fraud itself. Of the 85,000 estimated officials suspected of abetting the cheating in 2004, few have faced justice. The suspected ringleaders – including former Kuchma chief of staff Victor Medvedchuk, top Victor Yanukovych adviser Andriy Kluyev and former Central Election Comission head Serhiy Kivalov -- emerged unscathed. Neither vindicated nor exonerated, they have denied wrongdoing and burrowed their way back into power positions.

As for the Orange team's promises of sending “bandits to jail,” it’s harder than ever to distinguish the white hats from the black hats. To this extent, General Prosecutor Oleksandr Medvedko is remarkable for his ability to simply postpone any courtroom reckoning with his misleading public smokescreens about “knowing who the culprits are” or having “irrefutable evidence.” Let's see it, for once!

The stage for the next election fraud, commencing on Jan. 17, has been set. Parliament’s two largest factions – the Party of Regions and the Bloc of Yulia Tymoshenko -- have consistently warned that the other side could tamper with the votes and the election process. Most Ukrainians believe them.

Their warnings are all the sadder since it was the Regions Party and the Tymoshenko bloc who adopted an election law in July that the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and other experts have labeled as a “step backwards” for ensuring free and fair elections. The only reliable exit poll capable of measuring the voters’ is also under threat, due to a lack of funds from traditional Western donors.

A repeat of attempts to tamper with votes and change the outcome is as realistic as the adage: “I’m not a criminal until I’m caught.” And since few criminals – especially those who with high-flying political connections – are ever brought to justice in this nation, those interested in a democratic election will have to become even more vigilant in the weeks ahead.
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