Join us!

On this website you can actively participate as a volunteer writer.

If you are interested, you can get more information here with one click.

go to article

Follow us:

Follow us on Facebook!Follow us on Google+!Follow us on Twitter!Follow us with the news reader of your choice!Follow us on YouTube!

Andrei Olegovich Sannikov

Andrei Olegovich SannikovSannikov

POLITICS
2012-08-23
Post-revolution blues in Ukraine
 

The famous Orange Revolution that took place immediately after the 2004 Ukrainian presidential election was a time in history where Ukrainians fervently protested in light of electoral fraud. As events unfolded, however, it seemed that the revolutionary spirit had lost its momentum immediately at the end of the Revolution. A background article by Roy Yu

In 2004, for the first time since its independence in 1991, the Ukrainians witnessed the greatest political and, for the most part, non-violent revolution in their country that lasted for two months. On November 21, 2004, the revolution was initiated by reports from both domestic and international observers as well as by the general public. The reports pointed out that the results of the presidential run-off election between Viktor Yushchenko and Viktor Yanukovych were grossly rigged in favor of the latter. Many Ukrainians took part in demonstrations, sit-ins, and strike actions, which lasted until January 2005.

Instantly, the Orange Revolution became the big flashing headline in newspapers and news broadcasts both at home and abroad. The entire world turned its eyes on Ukraine and watched closely as the revolution unfolded. The color orange became the color of the opposition, led by Yushchenko and his main support Yulia Tymoshenko. The Independence Square in Kiev where most of the protests took place became the landmark of the emergence of democracy.

The Orange duo: collaboration or competition?

 
Viktor Yushchenko and Yulia Tymoshenko

The once seemingly promising Orange duo quickly became competitive rather than collaborative. The root of the problem was the fact that the political elites in Ukraine, motivated by greed, were not willing to share power and compromise on certain issues, notably on the gas deal between Russia and Ukraine. What was worse, though, was the transformation of Ukraine into a semi-parliamentarian, semi-presidential system. The President often practised what is known as “power politics”. For example, Yushchenko appointed the Supreme Court judges and local city council members based on party loyalty, instead of qualification.

Due to this dysfunctional system, he often interfered with the Prime Ministers´ and the Ukrainian Parliament’s, the Verkhovna Rada, decisions. Along with the unwillingness for cooperation among the elites, this “dual executive” phenomenon led to severe institutional competition to a point where the state power was undermined and legislative activities were kept to a minimum.

When Tymoshenko refused to practice Yushchenko’s politics, she was fired in September 2005. The lack of consensus and the amount of conflicting opinions over the basic political agenda between Yushchenko and the Prime Ministers, mainly Tymoshenko, led to four governments in less than three years. As a result, Ukraine plunged into a series of political crises, which shut Ukraine down politically because of permanent power struggles among the deputies and ongoing election campaigns.

Setting the foundations

 

The original intention of the Orange duo, Yushchenko and Tymoshenko, was to change and further democratize the political institutions in Ukraine. In the spirit of the Orange euphoria, one of the greatest changes was the 2004 change to the Ukrainian constitution. In an attempt to decentralize the power of the President, the constitution was modified so that some Presidential powers were shifted to the Parliament. This change backfired significantly as it created a hybrid semi-parliamentarian, semi-presidential system, which laid the groundwork for the future power struggle between President Yushchenko and Prime Minister Tymoshenko.

Another major change in the political scene stems from the lesson of the Orange Revolution: vote rigging. In order to avoid this problem, President Yushchenko abandoned the old mixed voting system for the Ukrainian Parliament. In this old system, there were two parts to the composition of the Verkhovna Rada. Half of the deputies were elected through first-past-the-post system in single-member electoral districts. The other half was elected through proportional representation by using a nationwide party-list. Since this voting system was greatly susceptible to all sorts of voting manipulations and falsifications, President Yushchenko replaced it with a proportional representation system using a nationwide party-list.

The Orange euphoria

After some major modifications to the political institutions in Ukraine, President Yushchenko completely shuffled his cabinet and embarked on a series of rapprochements and cooperation with the West. Within the first three months of his term in office, he made numerous appointments and dismissals in his government, the appointment of Tymoshenko as Prime Minister being the most famous one. As older officials were being replaced by Yushchenko´s supports, he set out his goals: among other things, EU and NATO membership, independence from Russian influence, protection of the Ukrainian language, anti-corruption, and stabilization of the state’s currency, the hryvnia.

 

Intense dialogue with the EU and NATO marked Yushchenko’s rapprochement with the West and growing independence from Russian influence. These talks included, among other things, cultural and student exchange programs, tourism and visa-wavier programs, and military cooperation. The ultimate goal was to obtain membership of several international organizations tied to the West.

The Orange Revolution improved Ukraine’s prospects of becoming an EU member state. In response to Yushchenko’s consistent efforts, on January 13, 2005, the European Parliament voted almost unanimously to establish closer ties with Ukraine in the framework of a possible EU membership. He was ready to fully reform Ukraine’s economy and cut ties with the members of the Commonwealth of Independent States in order to demonstrate Ukraine’s qualifications. Since the Orange Revolution, however, due to the power struggles within the Ukrainian political scene, no real progress was made in the country. Despite Poland’s eagerness to introduce Ukraine into the big EU family and the existing direct economic ties between Ukraine and some EU member states.

Ukraine’s accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2008 was one of the greatest accomplishments of Yushchenko’s presidency. By joining the organization Ukraine could now benefit from the secure access to all markets of the WTO member states and attract further foreign investments to develop its economy. The EU would consider this membership to be a great bonus on Ukraine’s résumé when it applies for EU membership.

A short-lived revolution

The spirit of the Orange Revolution did not last long. Its ideals were simply not carried through and the promises were not fulfilled by the Orange duo. Tensions between Yushchenko and Tymoshenko were obvious since their first day in office together. This discontent grew until the 2010 presidential election. As Tymoshenko pointed out in a meeting with regional governors in February 2009: “the President [Yushchenko] doesn’t allow both the government and local executive authorities to work as a single, coordinated and well-organized body”. Yushchenko, on the other hand, summarized his presidency and said: “Tymoshenko is my greatest mistake in five years”. The duo’s mutual attacks and its inability to work as a team were what essentially made the Ukrainians to look for an alternative solution. The solution could even be what was unimaginable few years ago: Yanukovych.