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LondonStudent · 1st March 2010

Anarchy in theUkraine?

James Grahamexplores the functioning of the electoral systemin the Eastern European state

The ongoing drama over Ukraine’s disputed presidential election result appears to have subsided after oppo- sition candidate Yulia Tymoshenko decided to cancel her legal chal- lenge toViktorYanukovych’s second round victory.

Previously, Prime Minister Ty-

moshenko had asked the Supreme Court to hold a full vote recount fol- lowing Viktor Yanukovych’s victory with a slim3.5%majority on 7th Feb- ruary. Allegations of vote rigging came from all sides during the course of the election, with Tymoshenko questioning the unusually high turn out of voters in the pro-Yanukovych eastern regions of the country, while others raised eyebrows at pro-western Georgian

premier Mikheil

Saakashvili’s decision to send ‘elec- tionmonitors’ toYanukovych friendly areas. In the end, European observers hailed the election as an “impressive display” of democracy. Tymoshenko’s opposition to the

election result invited comparison with the rigged election of six years ago, which preceded the so called ‘Or- ange Revolution’– in which Ty- moshenko’s impassioned speeches stirred hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians onto the streets in opposi- tion to the election of the pro-Russian Yanukovych, in turn leading to the in- stallation of the pro-western Viktor Yushchenko as the country’s presi- dent. Today the ‘tug-of-war between east

and west’ narrative doesn’t seemto fit the reality of Ukrainian politics. While both Tymoshenko and Yanukovych have advocated stronger ties with Europe, membership in the EU remains a distant prospect, and both candidates have promised closer relations with Russia – a position favoured by Ukrainian voters. In- deed, a recent poll by the Kiev Inter- national Institute of Sociology found that some 93% of Ukrainians hold

positive feelings towards Russia com- pared to 4% expressing negative atti- tudes. So should the world expect a seis-

mic shift in eastern European geopol- itics now that

the explicitly

pro-Russian Yanukovych has as- cended to power in Kiev? This ques- tion has been a key feature of the election coverage (at least here and in the U.S.) and the answer is probably not. The fact remains thatmilitary se- curity is not as much of a priority as economic stability. Questions over NATO membership have been the focus of less attention as theUkraine’s currency depreciated more than any other bar that of Iceland, and the Sey- chelles, during the recent economic crisis. Nevertheless, some analysts are

worried about a pro-Russian result might mean for this former Soviet satellite state’s independence, as 45 million Ukrainians are drawn closer

Tibet sidelined again


Following months of tension between theUS andChina, PresidentObama’s recent decision tomeetwithHisHoli- ness the 14thDalaiLamawasmetwith anger fromChinese officials. A state- ment issued by Foreign Ministry spokesmanMaZhaoxu onFriday 19th February, after the controversialmeet- ing, sternly condemnedObama’s deci- sion to host the Tibetan spiritual leader, declaring that he should “seri- ously considerBeijing's stance, imme- diately adoptmeasures towipe out the baneful impact andstopconniving and supporting anti-China separatist forces that seekTibetan independence”.

However, despite having ignored

China’s repeated warnings (or thinly- veiledthreats), a real clashof the titans is unlikely to emerge as a result. It would seem that the salience of Sino-US rela- tions regarding global economic and po- litical concerns overshadow the Tibet issue, as both super-powers are keen to manoeuvre strategically on the grand stage of international diplomacy. America’s efforts to carefully choreo-

graph the controversialmeeting and the fact thatChinahas since allowedfiveUS warships todockintheChinese territory ofHongKong -which has been prohib- ited in the past as a sign of protest to- wards actions in Washington - shows that both countries are keen to avoid major crisis. It isnot lost onObama that Chinese co-operationwill greatly aid his attempts to tacklemany of thekey issues

that confront him, including the re-in- vigoration of the global economy, tack- ling the spread of nuclear weapons and concerns over future energy supplies and climate change. As such, Obama has sung the praises of the Dalai Lama’s ‘Middle-Way Approach’, a non-partisan and moderate position, which seeks to protect the culture, religionandnational identity of Tibetans, in an autonomous region within the sovereignty of China.

The Dalai Lama declared that

his ‘heart had hardened’over the last six decades

This political compromise has been ad- vocated by the Dalai Lama and the Dharamsala-basedGovernment inExile since 1979, andinaninterviewwithThe AssociatedPress,HisHoliness expressed understanding towards Obama’s treat- ment of the whole affair, declaring that hehas come toholdlittle expectationfor political gestures, since his ‘heart has hardened’ over the last six decades.

America’s reluctance to rock the boat

bothreflects andreinforces a global trend for focusing concern on deteriorating human rights conditions and cultural preservation in Tibet, instead of on full diplomatic acknowledgment abroad. El Salvador, a country of around1.9million, lying almost ten thousandmiles away in CentralAmericawas the only country to voice serious concern to the UN during the Chinese invasion of 1950-51 and, since then, the recognition given abroad to Tibetan political representatives has always beenscanty. No longerneededas a buffer state to counter Chinese and Russian influence in Central Asia, Britain abandoned Tibet after leaving India in 1947, and the newgovernment, ledby JawaharlalNehru,wasdisinclined to interfere in Sino-Tibetan affairs, as part of its non-alignment policy. For many, the diplomatic impasse

created by the pursuit of such a ‘Middle- Way’ represents a failure to fully engage the global political elite with the cause. A recent survey, conducted by the gov- ernment-in-exile, found that, among 17,000Tibetans insideTibet, themajor- ity response was in favour of continua- tionwiththeMiddle-Way, but that there also emergeda sizeablediscontentedmi- nority. Among the Tibetan exile com- munity, commentators andorganisations suchas theTibetanYouthCongresshave emergedas strong critics ofwhat they re- gard as a programme unlikely to fulfil their vision, stated ontheirwebsite to be “complete independence for thewhole of

Allegations of vote rigging

came fromall sides during the course of the election

recently observed, Ukraine has just demonstrated something that hasn’t been experienced in Russia since

toMoscow’s sphere of influence. Yet, as bothNew York TimesMoscow cor- respondent Clifford J Levy and re- gional expert Timothy Garton Ash

Putin claimed power in 2000, namely the execution of a fair and clean elec- tion, through a thoroughly transpar- ent democratic process. Even as Yulia Tymoshenko publi-

cally rejected the official results, she resisted calling on her supporters to demonstrate. TheOrange Revolution has been peacefully discarded, not be- cause Ukraine has succumbed to Kremlin-inspired autocracy, but be- cause the government has failed to ad- dress internal problems – an attitude epitomised by the

fact that

Yushchenko received a meagre 5% of the popular vote as he was dumped out of the contest in the first round. As political analyst Lilit Gevorgyan observed, “voters have been burnt once by Orange Revolution promises of achieving EU standards of living only to see them plunge” and the in- cumbent

Tymoshenko and

Yushchenko have been punished in the polls for their failures.

Politics · 17


Tibet.” Suchconcerns reflect a growing inse-

curity among an increasingly educated and politically assertive Tibetan youth, who fear for the future ofTibet after the present Dalai Lama, who has indicated that he may not be reincarnated inside Tibet, leaves his earthly body. Since the Chinese government is expected to use thepuppetPanchenLama to recognise a China-aligned15thDalaiLama, thenext decade may provide a platform for the

pursuit of more radical demands, espe- cially if China continues its hardened stance towards spiritual, and ultimately, political dissent. A key political cross- roads in Sino-US relationswould surely follow, although it seems likely that, in the event of unrelenting aggressive Chi- nese policy, theTibet issuewill continue to be used as a pawn on the global polit- ical chessboard and Tibetan aspirations for independence will remain a distant dream. Page 1  |  Page 2  |  Page 3  |  Page 4  |  Page 5  |  Page 6  |  Page 7  |  Page 8  |  Page 9  |  Page 10  |  Page 11  |  Page 12  |  Page 13  |  Page 14  |  Page 15  |  Page 16  |  Page 17  |  Page 18  |  Page 19  |  Page 20  |  Page 21  |  Page 22  |  Page 23  |  Page 24  |  Page 25  |  Page 26  |  Page 27  |  Page 28
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