Ukraine has proven that it can run credible elections, and Yanukovych
has pledged that parliamentary balloting will meet all international standards.
Still, the majority of Ukrainians are now saying they do not expect these
elections to live up to the President’s promises. It is too soon to render a
final judgment on the quality of the parliamentary voting process, but it is
not too late to make changes that could move Ukraine in a more democratic
In mid-September, I led a pre-election assessment mission, organized
by the National Democratic Institute, to analyze the electoral framework and
environment. The delegation found that Ukrainians lack confidence in their
political institutions, including elections. This attitude results in part from
the issue of selective prosecution of political opponents, including former
Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. It also stems from the flawed local elections
in October 2010. In this context, political will and tremendous effort will be required
to regain public confidence. Government and election authorities will need to
go beyond the letter of the law and minimum international standards to regain
As a former Cabinet member under U.S. President George W. Bush and
two-term governor of New Jersey, a large and politically diverse U.S. state, I
understand the value of trust in electoral systems. It is the glue that maintains the
relationship of citizens to government.
Democracies are hard pressed to function without it.