Three things differentiate Victor Yushchenko from opponents in this election. They are: a record of accomplishments; an integral program for Ukraine’s future in Europe; and, a commitment to democratic values and principles.
No other candidate has the strategic vision, European road map, and record of promoting Ukraine that Yushchenko does. His historic mission is to anchor Ukraine firmly into European institutions. He is guided by core beliefs – balancing state finances with low inflation and a stable currency; social programs to help the needy; a level playing field for citizens and business that creates opportunities and attracts investment; friendly and mutually beneficial relations with Ukraine’s neighbors regardless of size; NATO membership; and promoting history and culture.
The weekly magazine Korrespondent claims Yushchenko accomplished more campaign promises than his rivals Viktor Yanukovych or Yulia Tymoshenko. Indeed, his 2004 election program “10 Steps Towards the People,” with several minor exceptions, has been completed.
On growth and trade issues, his liberal economic policies created 3.2 million jobs; attracted $36 billion in foreign direct investment; doubled personal incomes; doubled international trade; saw the poverty level drop to 8%, and shepherded Ukraine into the World Trade Organization. His push to cancel visa regimes with countries brought in investors and opened Ukraine’s doors to more than 23 million visitors and tourists annually.
His economic growth policies expanded the tax base to finance important social programs. Mothers with newborns were given cash for their needs. Families and housing was found for orphans and homeless children. Schools and libraries were connected to the Internet. Independent school testing put knowledge first ahead of connections. Wages and pensions increased. Infrastructure projects began.
Since 2005 inroads were made to bring “bandits to justice.” Nineteen thousand corrupt Kuchma bureaucrats were replaced. More than 4,000 officials who engaged in election fraud were punished. Officials tied to the most flagrant crimes of 2004 escaped justice and found safe haven from prosecution in neighboring countries. From 2005-2009, close to 10,000 officials nationwide were arrested and many faced court trials for abusing office and taking bribes. Despite this, Yushchenko openly admits his main disappointment in office is the high numbers of crimes committed by government officials.
The Brussels-based EU Observer called Yushchenko the most pro-European candidate in the Ukrainian election. His accomplishments include opening European markets to Ukrainians goods, services and labor; a simplified visa regime for citizens; recognition of Ukrainian diplomas for higher education; membership in the European energy community; and of course, Ukraine hosting the 2012 European football championship. He opened the door to Ukraine signing an Association Agreement with the EU creating a free trade zone in the coming months and future visa free travel. The roadmap to Ukraine’s membership in the EU is clear and within reach.
Future vision: free, fair & strong Ukraine
However, fixing broken government, reforming the state sector, and battling corruption are the largest hurdles to European integration. Central to Yushchenko’s program to overcome these hurdles are amending the constitution to strengthen direct democracy and legislative initiatives that take power away from party bosses giving it directly to citizens.
He calls for preserving the right of people to directly elect their President; direct election of MPs based on open party lists; and direct election of individual candidates to local councils. Ending immunity against criminal prosecution for MPs, judges and the president will make government and elected officials more accountable. Yushchenko’s program foresees an Anti-Corruption Bureau vested with special authorities to control high-ranking officials and punish them for corruption. The longer the system of power in Ukraine remains unreformed, the longer the country’s path to joining the EU.
Thirty-three campaign proposals make-up Yushchenko’s “Free, Fair and Strong Ukraine” platform. New labor laws and pension reform are key components to reviving Ukraine’s economy. Employees financed by the state will gain civil servant status. Flex-time will be introduced at state institutions so citizens can receive state services at times convenient for them. Mothers whose children attend pre-school care centers shall have their workdays shortened to 7-hours.
Decentralizing Cabinet budget power to municipal self-government bodies will give authority and means to local officials for providing basic citizen services. Locals can better meet community development needs for hospitals, schools, transportation, construction and other projects than Kyiv officials.
Yushchenko’s way out of the economic crisis is based on the proven path of greater competition, lowering administrative barriers, promoting labor force mobility, opening markets and attracting investment and expertise.
Unlike his opponents in this campaign, voters know Yushchenko’s stand on important issues and his ultimate goals. He’s a man of mission, vision, and values that dictate actions. He addresses problems and doesn’t wait for them to turn into crises, unlike the incumbent Prime Minister. Even if sometimes they may be unpopular, voters know Yushchenko’s choices are in Ukraine’s best interests. He is the most pro-Ukrainian candidate in this election.
Myron Wasylyk is a campaign adviser to President Victor Yushchenko.
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