There was another election in Ukraine last Sunday. If you feel confused, bored, or have a sense of deja vu, you are excused. The whole world is getting tired of these endless elections, as are Ukrainians themselves. This is my fifth article on the Ukraine's politics among my 35 articles for The eXile (sixth if I add the one on the gas dispute between Russia and Ukraine in winter of 2005-2006), so I'm pretty sick of it, too. Over the past three years, which saw the Orange Revolution and its aftermath, I followed Ukrainian politics rather closely. I don't do that anymore, although just before Sunday's elections it was a hot topic among Russia's talking heads, and in the Zhe Zhe blogosphere.
Let's go back over this story, since there's no way around it. Ukraine had three rounds of presidential elections in late 2004, not two as is customary in saner countries (or according to Ukraine's own constitution). The government (of then Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko) that came to power in February 2005, was plunged into crisis just five months later, after lurching from one screwup to another, and was finally dismissed by President Yushchenko in September 2005 (see my article "The Gogolean Bordello" in The eXile issue #224 on the events leading to that).
The feeble caretaker government of Yury Yekhanurov existed for almost a year after Tymoshenko was fired, most of the time as a lame duck, as his faction lost its parliamentary majority after the elections in March 2006. Negotiations to form a new coalition government went on for some four months after that election, and in the end Yushchenko reluctantly offered the post of Prime Minister to Victor Yanukovich – the same "pro-Russian" bugaboo of the Western media who lost to Yushchenko during the "Orange Revolution."
As Yanukovich's party gradually consolidated its grip on power, Yushchenko saw that he was becoming increasingly irrelevant. So he dismissed the Rada (parliament) in March 2007 (unlawfully, but who cares, this is Ukraine) and he decreed new elections in April. The Rada refused to be dismissed, and voted to nullify Yuschenko's presidential decrees. A protracted stalemate ensued, which at one point featured a standoff between armed units loyal to opposing powers (the president and the government). Eventually a compromise was reached, and elections were scheduled for September 30. The Yanukovich government, now a lame duck, continued to run the show until then.
So far Ukraine has managed to avoid a "Russia-1993" situation (a violent confrontation between the president and the parliament), but instead it finds itself stuck on repeat like a scratched old record. Over the last three years the players in Ukraine's politics have all remained the same. First, the "Orange" camp which consists of two very distinct factions--Yuschenko's "Our Ukraine" bloc, whose main power base is the western part of the Ukraine, which had traditionally been part of the Hapsburg Empire; and Yulia Tymoshenko's party, the BYT (Bloc of Yulia Tymoschenko), whose supporters come mostly from the central part of Ukraine, its agricultural heartland. And, finally, there's Yanukovich's Party of Regions, whose base in the russophonic industrial regions in the south and east. There are also several small spoiler parties (of Vladimir Lytvin and of Alexander Moroz, both former Rada speakers) which have switched sides many times and are available to the highest bidders.
Tymoshenko promises everything to everybody. It is utterly pointless to search for consistency, logic or credible figures in her "program"
This recent election campaign was very dirty, which is par for the course in Ukraine. Among the latest tricks that came to light was hidden-camera footage of Kharkov's mayor (associated with Yanukovich's Party of Regions) being coached by his advisors. The clip was circulated on the internet, and for a time it was the most popular clip on YouTube. In the video, the mayor tries to prepare a speech supposedly showing how much he cares for his people. The backroom dialogue was full of expletives, and the speech itself – was full of the most banal and trite political lingo imaginable. The other side apparently retaliated by posting another YouTube item –footage of Kiev's mayor extolling the virtues of religious consciousness in his speech, making 20-second pauses between words (Christianity, eh... mmm... Islam...), and looking drugged, or drunk, or just plain dumb.