Ukraine has chosen

9 February 2010

Ukraine has chosen

In the last few days I have been in Ukraine as an observer for the elections. According to the international observers the elections were conducted fairly. Five years ago this was not the case, and street protests forced a new vote. Now the Ukrainians have elected the same man who was at that time forced to stand down, Viktor Yanukovych. With a few percentage points more, he won against Julia Timoshenko. What will this mean for Ukraine and its relations with Europe?

by Harry van Bommel

Harry van BommelTo begin with, this will not accelerate Ukraine's advance towards the European Union. Timoshenko promised the electorate EU membership within five years, but this was of course an empty promise. Yanukovych is more oriented towards Russia and this is hardly surprising given his Russian background and Ukraine's location. The country must first and foremost avoid making the same error as did Georgia, which managed to stir up tensions with its enormous neighbour. For this reason it is understandable that Yanukovych has also put plans to join NATO on a back-burner. Whether Yanukovych is the right man in the right position to lead his country into further democratisation we must wait and see. That is also more a judgement to which the Ukrainian parliament must come.

This time being an election observer was very different to the experience of the Duma elections two years ago in Russia. There we were scarcely welcome, whereas here we were received with open arms. In Russia a stink of unfairness hung over the elections; here everything was verifiable to the smallest detail and well regulated.

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