Why early elections are our democratic right
Ukraine hit the headlines again this week. Unfortunately, this time the reports were scanty and seldom reflected the real situation.
While there is clearly conflict, we would suggest that much more is involved than a battle for power between the two Viktors – President Yushchenko and Prime Minister Yanukovych together with their supporters. Those who, like us, support the President fully in calling new elections believe that their democratic voice, and with it, their rights, have been seriously jeopardized since the ruling coalition came to power.
Ukraine received accolades just over a year ago for laudably democratic elections. Five parties entered the Verkhovna Rada (Parliament), none with an overall majority. Much was made of the fact that the Party of the Regions gained the largest number of votes only 15 months after its leader – Viktor Yanukovych lost to Yushchenko after millions of Ukrainians refused to accept rigged results and defended both their candidate and their right to live in a democratic country. In fact, however, the number of votes was modest – 32%. The “Orange” parties had a majority. Unfortunately, one of these parties – the Socialists – almost en masse suddenly changed sides, along with a few Deputies voted in on the candidate lists of the other two Orange parties.
In recent weeks the coalition began a concentrated drive to pull into their ranks others from the Orange parties and began openly talking of achieving a constitutional majority, which would enable them to change even the Constitutional order in the country. The lure of power and / or money was clearly too great for some of those individuals who changed sides.
Nobody is suggesting that Deputies should become puppets voting mindlessly as decreed by their factions. They are there to represent the people who voted for them, and they can best do so if they act in accordance with their own conscience.
Yet we believe that voters are entirely justified in objecting to their votes being hijacked and their will so flagrantly distorted. 22% of the Ukrainian electorate voted for BYuT and 14% for Nasha Ukraina, both of these clearly “orange” factions. If some of those Deputies whose mandate came from these votes change sides entirely, what does that do for the will of 36% of the population? Not to mention the will of that 7% who voted for the Socialists having all reasonable grounds for believing in the latter partys commitment to the democratic values which triumphed in the Orange Revolution.
One can argue that all of this is part of the democratic process and to be ironed out at the next elections. Given the hysterical passion of some of those communists and “socialists” now objecting to early elections, how this will be ironed out is probably not in question.
What is, however, very much in question is whether Ukraine can afford to take this chance. The arrogance with which the Party of the Regions has been openly talking of gaining a constitutional majority and what plans they have, these frequently involving turnarounds on commitments they made less than a year ago, suggests strongly that even if they make such commitments again, they cannot be trusted.
Three weeks ago Yanukovych suggested that the next President might be “elected” by the Verkhovna Rada. He backed down, presumably under pressure to not reveal all his cards just yet. Yet the words were uttered, to be refuted only a day later. And where would that leave democracy?
Other events recently, including the ostentatious search and interrogation of one of the leaders of the opposition, render inevitable the conclusion that most of those in the Yanukovych-led coalition learned nothing about democracy and heeding the will of the people in November – December 2004.
If they need new lessons, we can assure them that the people will be there to give them. As, by the way, they were last Saturday when around 100 000 mainly Kyiv residents affirmed their support for early elections on Independence Square. Just as back in 2004, the Party of the Regions also showed their true colours in Kyiv by bringing out contingents of paid “supporters”. There is plenty of evidence of such financial arrangements should anyone wish to dispute this.
The extraordinary sabre-rattling and measures taken by the coalition this week demonstrate clearly to us all that they are terrified, and with cause, of new elections which will expose the degree to which they were usurping power. More importantly, it confirms our view that the difficult and courageous decision taken by the President this week was the only decision possible and one which affirms our democratic choice and will.