Revolutionaries In Ukraine No Longer Singing Same Song

KIEV, Ukraine -- Demonstrators were again packing the streets of Kiev this weekend, six months after their Orange Revolution.

But this time their focus was not on confrontations with riot police, but on a celebration of Eurovision. Written off by many as kitsch, the song contest has provided the focus for an outpouring of emotion.

But not everybody is happy. Revolutions have a habit of eating their children, and Ukraine is no different. Pora, the youth group that spearheaded the December protests, has tried, and failed, to enter politics.

Victor Yushchenko, Ukraine's president, has cold-shouldered the movement, grudgingly giving it a single cabinet post and telling Pora that if it wants more, it will have to stand for election, just like anybody else.

Pora - it means "it is time" - is now trying to form a political party, but its membership drifted away with the end of the street protests and, shorn of its pro-democracy zeal, the leaders struggle to define what they stand for.

For Eurovision, Pora reopened the camp it formed as a focus for the winter revolution. But the Kiev authorities, having just resurfaced the roads, ordered the camp be set up on an island on the Dnipr river, so barely a tenth of the 5,000 expected inhabitants showed up.

Many, even inside the movement, now want Pora to stay out of politics, instead making sure future governments stick to the right path. "Some think we can be the guardians of democracy," said Nina Sorokopud, a Pora press officer. "If it were not for Pora, then maybe the revolution would not have happened."

Meanwhile, there are tensions between Mr Yushchenko and Julia Timoshenko, his prime minister. During the revolution, they were an inseparable double-act, with Mr Yushchenko playing the role of sober father- figure and Ms Timoshenko providing the fire and the passion.

Since then, they have gone their own way.

Ms Timoshenko has worried economists by splashing out on a generous programme of pensions and social payments that the government cannot afford. That has made her popular, as has her shrill campaign to root out corrupt tycoons who grew rich under the previous government. Dozens of its privatisations have been revisited, starting with the sale of a giant steel works by the former president Leonid Kuchma to his son-in-law.

"She is a pain in the neck for a lot of strong men in Ukraine," said Peter Burkovski, of Kiev's School for Policy Analysis.

Despite their squabbles, the Yushchenko-Timoshenko team remains popular, regularly scoring 60 per cent in opinion polls. And most expect their alliance to hold, if only out of self-interest. "They are destined to work together," said Mr Burkovski. "If they break up, it will be a huge blow to both."

Meanwhile. their opponents have lost ground. Victor Yanukovich, the former prime minister who lost the presidential election to Mr Yushchenko, has seen his popularity tumble.

And the westerners living there say the downfall of the old regime has eased corruption.

Mr Yushchenko recently chose to hold his birthday party in Kiev's Irish pub, O'Brien's. Its owner, Desmond Reid, said: "Everything has become a lot more transparent. It's too early to say how successful they will be, but they are heading in the right direction."

Rougher times lie ahead. Kiev may find a cash crisis because of Ms Timoshenko's spending on social services, unless she can find extra money from the anti-corruption investigations now under way.

But, for now, after a history of domination by Russia, the Soviet Union and home-grown despots, many in Kiev are simply savouring democracy. "The number one emotion you find on the streets is hope," one western diplomat said.

Echoing that point, Anna Voznita, a hotel worker, said: "This is like a new circle of history for us. It is not just empty optimism. With the revolution, our country was reborn."

Source: The Scotsman