Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Repression in Minsk and European Challenge in Kiev

The Orange Revolution in Ukraine might not have resulted in everything its adherents had hoped for, and its coalition has clearly fallen to pieces, but without it the coming elections the coming weekend in Ukraine might well have been a sham along the lines of what we saw in Belarus last weekend.

So far, manifestations are continuing in Minsk against the sham elections and the repression that has followed.

But while the Orange Revolution could succeed against a regime that was demoralized, in Minsk there is a regime obviously determined to use all the instruments of repression to preserve their powers.

The picture shows how it looked Sunday evening in the midst of Minsk.

The Ukraine parliamentary election is unlikely to result in an outright victory for any of the three major blocs that are now competing for power.

My tip would be that we will see the Party of Regions headed by last years election falsifier Viktor Yanukovich but dominated by old-style “red directors” and some younger ambitious tycoons coming out on top of the race.

And then there will be President Viktor Yushenko’s Our Ukraine probably followed by the Bloc of Yulia Timoshenko.

Those will be the three – and then there are likely to be three-four other parties making it into the Rada.

With the constitution now changed to give far greater role to the Rada as well as to the government, it is a safe bet that it will take a rather long time to set up a government that can work after the election. It might not be as lengthy as it is in Iraq – but it will be far from easy.

For the West it will be important to seek assurances that whichever government emerges in Kiev sticks to the commitment of the Orange Revolution to an open and democratic society, the rule of the law and determined economic reforms.

This should not be impossible, although it will require concerted diplomacy by the European Union and the United States. Poland, which played an important part last year, seems to be out of the circle as serious European diplomacy is concerned, but that places an increased burden on other actors.

It might well turn into the key test for the European Neighbourhood Policy that Brussels has started to implement.