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suggests that Yanukovych would probably win again in a runoff, despite
Ukraine’s  persistent economic doldrums,
despite rampant violations of the human rights by his government and the
overall backsliding of democratic freedoms (worst since the Soviet times). Add
to this a pandemic of kleptocratic abuses and the demise of the nascent civil

declining fortune of the Yanukovych regime on the international stage is
graphically seen in the failure of a recent Ukrainian trade mission to
Washington. The visiting  battalion of  buffoons, none of them able to make a business
presentation in English, and only one speaking in Ukrainian, was a sorry
spectacle, barely noticed back home.

the staying power of the Yanukovych regime seems to be rationalized in the
minds of at least some by the disillusionment of the people with the outcomes of
the 2004 Orange Revolution that brought Viktor Yushchenko and Tymoshenko to
power. “We were fooled” is a recurrent theme.

Wrong. The
regime’s power hinges on the monolithic support it gets from the pro-Russian
regions of Ukraine. Hell or high water, this support is immune to any
ideological dispute or economic slowdown, as evidenced by the unwritten
alliance between the Regions Party and the Communist Party.

with the Orange Revolution may be still lingering and diluting the strength of
the democratic opposition, but the time has come to call the spade a spade.

Wasn’t the
corruption at all levels a systemic feature of the Leonid Kuchma, Yushchenko,
and Yanukovych governance ? Who is to say that the disillusionment with one of
them must nullify the advances it delivered in nurturing the democratic
freedoms and the national aspiration of the Ukrainian people that had been
downtrodden for centuries?

Isn’t  the blaming of disillusionment of the people
about the internal conflict in the Yushchenko-Tymoshenko government a cop-out
for the inability of opposition politicians to put  together a winning strategy? Hasn’t the
entire left-of-center spectrum on socio-economic issues been practically ceded
to the Communist Party?

Or perhaps
worse — isn’t the disillusionment an excuse for the absence in the mainstream
of Ukraine of at least some degree of genuine appreciation, if not a strong
commitment to democratic values and patriotic spirit?

Even more
troubling is the ambivalence of the people, confirmed by the polling numbers,
to the abuse of power in the politically motivated conviction and jailing of
the leaders of the opposition. The jailing of former prime minister Tymoshenko,
who has become the symbol of Ukrainian national democracy, is a living proof
that Ukraine is not a free nation, a nation with a majority of its citizens no
longer troubled by loss of liberty.

When Nelson
Mandela, the leading figure of the majority of people in the republic of South
Africa in their quest for freedom, was jailed for 20 years by the apartheid regime,
he was universally revered while in jail and was acclaimed as new president
when freedom finally came, even though that country is far from being
ethnically homogeneous.

It is
obvious that all of Ukraine, with its split identity, will not rally for Tymoshenko
mainly because some of its regions carry the legacy of imperial Russian hegemony
over Ukraine, and are incompatible with Tymoshenko’s stand for democracy and
national dignity. It strikes observers as strange that not even all 47 percent
who voted for her in the presidential runoff elections in 2010 will stand by

Yatseniuk, another notable candidate in the 2010 elections, must get credit for
uniting his Party for Change with the Batkivshchyna Party of Tymoshenko on a
joint list for the coming parliamentary elections, and in effect for standing
with her.

The same
cannot be said of Vitali Klitschko, who initially moved as “fighting for
Tymoshenko,” but then declined to put his new UDAR party on the same joint
list, while claiming that his party will draw more votes (and thus increase the
opposition’s total draw) if competing separately and maybe taking away some
from the Regions party base.

Recent polls
show that his party is getting about 10 percent, but the single-list opposition
draw has slipped to 15 percent, while the Regions Party gets 27 percent. The
Communist Party moved up with 9 percent.

Tymoshenko factor is recognized in the West as the central issue in quest for
democracy in Ukraine. The U.S. Senate on Sept. 21 approved a strongly worded
resolution demanding freedom for Tymoshenko and other political prisoners in
Ukraine, and recommending that sanctions be imposed on those responsible for
their jailing.

At this
point, the people of Ukraine don’t seem to be rushing toward democracy, nor are
they demonstrably disturbed by encroachments on the human rights. Among those
who should care, many seem to be hiding under an umbrella of disillusionment.

Not hiding
in anything are Femen, the women’s group famous for topless protests. Recently
they did their thing in France in protest against the discrimination of women
in Ukraine, and in cutting down a wooden cross in Kyiv, erected in commemoration
of the victims of the Holodomor.                             

While the
latter action sparked a minor furor, a larger question is why at the unveiling
of the Holodomor memorial in Kyiv four years ago, in what was supposed to be a
major and very solemn national event, only about 400 people showed up, besides Yushchenko
with high government officials. This indication of a lukewarm public attitude
concerning Ukraine’s greatest national tragedy in modern times perhaps explains
the casual frame of mind of many in Ukraine towards the upcoming Oct. 28 parliamentary
elections. Overall, this is not Ukraine’s finest hour.

Boris Danik is a retired Ukrainian-American
living in North Caldwell, New Jersey.  


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