Ukraine’s ‘Orange Revolution’ will reach its climax on December 26, when Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych and former Prime Minister Viktor Yushchenko will replay their run-off for the presidency. The massive fraud that was supposed to bring victory to Mr Yanukovych, and which incited hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians to take to the streets of Kyiv to defent their rights, no longer looks possible. Yet Ukraine’s democratic future is still not guaranteed.
Ukraine is undergoing a true liberal revolution, akin to the great European liberal revolutions of 1848, and reminiscent of Prague’s Velvet revolution of 1989. Ukrainians demand democracy, freedom and the rule of law. After five years of an average annual economic growth of 9%, economic claims are strikingly absent, as are all socialist and even social demands.
The discredited election results suggested that the country is geographically and ethnically divided, with the democratic opposition candidate Yushchenko winning overwhelmingly in seventeen western and central regions, while Yanukovych dominated in ten eastern and southern regions. However, Yushchenko did carry several Russian-speaking regions, notably the capital Kiev, and Yanukovych won most in the authoritarian Donetsk and Luhansk regions furthest to the east.
Much of the regional differences can be explained by their degree of democracy and openness rather than ethnicity. Wisely, Yushchenko launched the slogan “East and West together!” emphasizing his endeavor to unite the country. Similarly, miners bussed by their managers to Kiev were soon being convinced of the ‘Orange’ cause by the demonstrators and were quickly sent back East by their minders.