Thursday, February 11, 2010

What Will Yulia Tymoshenko Do?

Let's begin with Ukraine. Without writing a long, winding piece about what I saw in the country from January 10 to January 13 (we might get around to that soon enough though), the Ukrainian election has been a story I've been following for years, practically, and which finally culminated (during this week of blizzard-induced calm in Washington) in the more interesting second vote, the runoff between Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and Viktor Yanukovich, who's served two terms as premier and two terms in jail (in his youth) and was the villain of the Orange Revolution who tried to steal the 2004 election, and failed.

Yanukovich has won this time. Tymoshenko is not giving up though. From what I was reading in the days before the election, there were some hijinks such as a modification to election laws several days before the vote which made Tymoshenko reasonably cry foul. And yet the OSCE and EU quickly greeted the vote, in which Yanukovich won by about 3.5%, as legitimate, free and fair. This Kyiv Post article sketches out Tymoshenko's case for not conceding, which it doesn't appear that she's doing - - the story bears watching over the next few days, if only because it will help determine Tymoshenko's future role as strong leader of the opposition - or not? - and the wrangling won't help the economy, which I've been studying in the crisis.

(I'm working on a written report based on the trip to Ukraine and Latvia with my SAIS professor and 12 other students, and on Tuesday next week I'm talking at a presentation about the trip.)

My take is that I expected Tymoshenko to contest the results because of some problems (everything's relative I guess, American elections are far from perfect as 2000 (Florida) and 2004 (Ohio) attest and OSCE is a pretty credible source) but then the international reaction and margin of victory are enough to make hers look like a lost cause, to the point where many of her supporters are hoping she just transitions into opposition. I do think she was the better option for the country by far because I think she would have been able to work effectively with both Russia and the West, necessary for Ukraine, and I don't think Yanukovich will have great relations with the US and EU.

So keeping an eye on Tymoshenko and the ongoing developments in Kyiv, while she's keeping an eye on me from the poster on my kitchen wall, the one where she's got her braid down and is playing with her white tiger. The grain one pictured is in my bedroom.

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