Ukraine’s “Litmus Test” Elections Arrive

Tomorrow, Sunday October 28, Ukrainians will head to the polls for their parliamentary elections.

Ukraine is still a young democracy, bearing the scars of seventy years of Soviet occupation both in the lost physical heritage the monsters tore down, and in the less tangible but no-less-real scars they left on the nation’s psyche. It is a nation where the very wealthiest exert far too great a sway. It is a nation where Russian imperialism, more credible with Vladimir Putin back at the helm and a United States that watched Georgia carved up, is a looming menace.

It is a nation where the current President, Viktor Yanukovych, is now Russia’s staunchest enemy and largest source of European reform in the country, and the United Opposition, the remainder of much of the Orange Revolution, is Putin’s pawn and an ally of neo-Nazis; and yet the West, with no understanding of the country, believes the Orange Revolution is still ongoing, and Yanukovych is the Russian tyrant in danger of crushing it all.

It is a nation in which the former Prime Minister and failed Presidential candidate, Yulia Tymoshenko, signed a treaty with Russia to further her own political ambitions, despite the clear instruction of the then-President, Viktor Yushchenko, whose government she headed; who signed that treaty without Ministerial authority despite the clear letter of the law that required her to gain the approval of the Cabinet of Ministers before signing it; and whose former ally in the Orange Revolution took the stand in her trial to testify against her, and continues to assert that her actions were criminal.

It is a nation that prosecuted its former Prime Minister for breaking the law, as any nation that values the rule of law, and treats the high and low with the same respect, must.

It is a nation eternally damned for obeying the rule of law and prosecuting a political leader who broke the law.

It is a nation where heart-wrenching economic and political reforms have been made by the governing bloc, for which that same bloc may lose tomorrow’s elections; and yet that same bloc is condemned as revanchist and Soviet.

It is a nation that submits its convicted to justice at the European Court of Human Rights and its laws to European approval, and yet is constantly told it is not European enough.

It is a nation where its elections have all but been judged unfair and corrupt, despite the clear reports by outside observers that all is proceeding well, and despite the fact that the elections have not yet been held.

Very simply, this is not fair. No other country in Europe is dictated to in this way, told when not to prosecute its criminals and when to do so, which laws to pass and which not, which laws to uphold and which not, and that even when it does what is demanded it has failed. The United States is, but the United States, even now, does not care, and need not. Ukraine must.

Yet despite all of this, despite paying every day a crippling price for Russian natural gas just to keep facing Europe, despite internationally-demanded reforms that have helped push Ukraine back into recession, despite an international press and governing establishment determined to see the worst and never see anything good outside of Tymoshenko and her coalition, Ukraine is not doomed.

Tomorrow, they can pass the litmus test. They can — and based on all indicia so far, will — pass by holding free and fair elections.

There will be some fraud, likely at the local level. This happens in the United States in major cities and on reservations. This happens everywhere. But Kyiv is bound and determined to join Europe, and they know that free elections are a necessary component of that union. They will not let them be soiled by fraud.

On Monday, the world will wake to a Ukraine that has passed its litmus test (presumably coming in at 7?). The growing debate over how to view Ukraine will heat up as free elections and the mounting evidence show a country determined to be part of Europe geographically, culturally, economically, and politically.

Tomorrow is the gateway to the future. Let us wish Ukraine well.

Matthew Lina contributed to this piece.

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