Ukraine’s Democratic Choice

Suddenly, Ukraine faces another stark choice: dismiss the government and parliament and hold new elections, or see the country’s independence surrendered bit by bit. There is renewed talk, too, of violent civil unrest. None of this should be surprising, given how our corrupt rulers systematically incite regional and ethnic hatred.

Some say that President Viktor Yushchenko’s decision this week to dismiss Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych’s government was unwarranted. They are wrong: Yushchenko’s actions were necessary because the Yanukovych government, in clear violation of the law, was preparing to mount a constitutional coup that would have stripped the president of his remaining supervisory powers over the army and police. Either the president acted now, or Ukraine would return to the absolute rule of criminal clans that existed before our Orange Revolution in 2004.

I did not agree with Yushchenko’s decision to appoint Yanukovych prime minister following last year’s parliamentary election. For a democratic-minded president to co-habit (as the French call it) with the very man who sought to sabotage Ukraine’s last presidential ballot would, I knew, provoke institutional paralysis and political chaos. And so it has.

But the ultimate shortcoming of that cohabitation was its curtailment of the democratic process. Ukraine’s democrats, who won that election, were denied their voice and their place in government. Yushchenko offered his hand to his foes in good faith so as to bind up our nation’s wounds; in return, the governing pact that he reached with Yanukovych was betrayed at every turn. A new election will restore democratic choice – and thus revitalize our democracy.