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Ukraine’s Struggle for Law

One year after our Orange Revolution, many Ukrainians see its ideals as betrayed. Belief in a government answerable to the people and in a transparent market purged of insider dealing no longer guides government policy. Instead, the ideals for which we struggled appear as slogans invoked by those who want to protect their vested interests.

Cynics explain this by saying that our AOrange” ideals were never anything but the rationalizations of one set of oligarchs struggling to overthrow another. Once masters of the situation, it is said, the zeal of those who promised reform mutated into a zeal to preserve their private wealth and that of their friends.

How did Ukraine reach this state of cynicism? A year ago, everyone gathered in the streets of Kyiv knew what we were standing up against: a corrupt government that sought to command life and labor, and to dispose of state property, at its will. In so far as formal legal rights existed, no court could be relied upon to enforce those rights when our rulers saw their interests as challenged.

In evicting that regime, we believed that this form of absolutism was ended. Instead, those who benefited from the regime=s corruptions insisted that their rights to the property they had stolen were inviolate. These crony capitalists argue that, if they are left alone to develop their assets, they will make the country prosperous. Tamper with property, no matter how ill-gotten, and no investor will have confidence, they claim.