Feb. 4, 2010, 9:56 p.m. |
The current prime minister is the only one capable of the two to carry Ukraine’s democratic torch.
In the three weeks that have passed since the first round of Ukraine’s presidential election on Jan. 17, frontrunner Victor Yanukovych has provided voters with ample justification for rejecting his candidacy. Despite her many faults, Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, Yanukovych’s opponent in the runoff scheduled for Feb. 7, is clearly the better choice for the nation.
The campaign of Yanukovych, leader of the eastern-looking Party of Regions, has proven to be an exercise in contempt for democracy. Additionally, the candidate’s actions show that he will not be his own man as president. He remains subservient to powerful oligarchs, who have groomed him in his career path from petty ex-con to governor of Donetsk and finally the villain of Ukraine’s 2004 Orange revolution. His team of Soviet apologists and industrial robber barons has shown nothing but hostility to Ukraine’s infant democracy and nascent middle class.
Yanukovych is in essence an empty suit, as was so aptly demonstrated by his refusal to debate Tymoshenko before a live television audience. Lacking articulation, integrity, and courage, he has stuck to sound-bite scripts written for him by his political consultants. When Yanukovych does stray from prepared texts, he reveals astonishing ignorance and even sexism – such as his retort about keeping Tymoshenko in the kitchen.
His Party of Regions has assailed democracy to the very end by adopting last-minute changes to the election law. This should be enough to revive memories of Yanukovych’s involvement in the 2004 attempts to rig the presidential election in his favor – a crime which he still says never occurred.
Yanukovych’s background, which includes two jail sentences during his youth, suggests poor character in many ways. Both his master’s degree and his Ph.D. are suspect, to say the least, as the Kyiv Post’s John Marone reported weeks ago.
Tymoshenko, on the other hand, has articulated a hopeful vision for Ukraine. While her credibility has never been high, her past performance, current plan and future promise suggest that Ukraine would be in better hands with her.
Ukrainians have already broken up the troika of leaders who have dominated the nation’s politics for the last five years or more. Voters did so by defeating President Victor Yushchenko’s re-election bid. Now voters have a chance to get rid of Yanukovych, a second member of the trio. They should seize the moment. Tymoshenko deserves the chance to govern without enduring the relentless, destructive attacks of Yushchenko and Yanukovych.