Ukraine’s Revolt of the Oligarchs
KYIV – Ukraine’s parliamentary election on October 28 will be neither free nor fair. After eight unproductive years since the 2004 Orange Revolution, the democratic opposition is depressed and demoralized. Even so, the elections may check President Viktor Yanukovych’s power.
Yanukovych came to power in February 2010, in elections that were rated free and fair (and at a time when Freedom House still ranked Ukraine as democratic). But he quickly consolidated power and turned Ukraine into a mildly authoritarian state. A dozen prominent opposition politicians have been sentenced to prison, including former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and the former interior minister, Yuri Lutsenko.
Tymoshenko, who was and remains the leader of the liberal and pro-Western opposition, was sentenced to seven years in prison for a gas deal with Russia in which she was not even accused of having benefited personally. Without her, the democratic opposition has no strong leader. But Yanukovych has not stopped there. He exerts heavy pressure on private television channels, and has blocked licenses and cable access for the independent television channel TVi, which has exposed the most serious corruption cases of his administration. Moreover, he uses the civil service and law-enforcement authorities extensively to repress the opposition and promote his protégés.