One dominant interpretation of the "failure" of the Orange revolution is as the failure of the west. This view can be traced back to the erroneous idea (propagated by Russia) that the Orange revolution was actually created by the west. In this interpretation, Ukraine became "free" in 2004 from the Russian yoke – the west "won".
The subsequent failure of Ukraine to join NATO, make significant progress on European Union membership or develop European-style institutions and leadership, led one commentator, Simon Tisdall, to declare that, five years on, "in a sense, [Russian prime minister Vladimir] Putin has won".
But the Orange revolution was not primarily about defining Ukraine's future as with the west or with Russia, about leaving Russia's sphere of influence, and joining the west's (again, how Russia interpreted it).
It was about defining Ukraine's aspirations and values as western (free and fair elections, rule of law, a balanced media, limited corruption, diversified market economy) as opposed to Russian (rigged elections, legal anarchy, controlled media, rampant corruption, crony state capitalism).
If the west didn't "win" Ukraine in 2004, Putin cannot "win" it back now. The real failure of the Orange revolution, therefore, lies in the inability of its leaders to push through reforms to build a state corresponding to the western values to which the protestors aspired.
It is this dynamic that is driving the candidates' election campaigns this time round. Most candidates are focusing on economic and social issues, as well as promising strong leadership to end the "chaos" of the past five years.
The candidate who received open support from Moscow in 2004, Viktor Yanukovych, now leads in polls. This doesn't reflect a dramatic shift in voters' sympathy toward Russia, but is an indictment of the domestic failures of the Orange leaders. In fact, Yanukovych hardly mentions geopolitical issues in his campaigning, and has even called for "balanced" relations with Russia and the EU.
Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, Yushchenko's former ally turned bitter foe and the other leading contender in for the ballot alongside Yanukovych, says she is building "pragmatic" relations with Russia, but is also a vocal supporter of Ukraine's European integration.
If we do talk about "winners" and "losers" in the Orange revolution, the most obvious victory in the eyes of Ukrainians has gone to the "bandits" who have not been sent to jail, as Yushchenko promised.
Politicians, big businessmen (often one and the same) and government bureaucrats, remain "untouchables", as one recent television series (Ukrainian) dubbed them. They drive between parliament and their mansions in blacked-out Mercedes, running over pedestrians.
They embezzle state funds and hide behind political protection. They acquire state land and fence off beaches for their own personal use. Parliamentary deputies have immunity from prosecution, and when in one case this year it was lifted, the deputy – the prime suspect in a murder case – conveniently managed to get away before parliament passed the decision.
The anger towards politicians in Ukraine makes Britain's attitude towards MPs look cuddly. One minor candidate for the presidency has a game on his website where you can shoot characters who bear a remarkable likeness to the country's top politicians. Nothing captures the mood better than the man who has changed his surname to "Againstall" and is running for president.
This is the result of the Orange revolution – no one believes that any politician can make a positive difference to their lives. The real loser is not the west; it is the Ukrainian people.
Source: Guardian UK