Voting Ukrainian-Style

KIEV, Ukraine -- Slogans and promises for any taste, lists of worthies for some become the top unworthies for others, for everyone has their own conscience of the nation and their own Maidan.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko

In this pre-holiday season of endless party congresses, Ukrainian politics is reminiscent of colorful babble of the Sorochinsky market fair, with political traders shouting each other down as they hawk their wares and inspire deep doubts in their buyers/voters. As they demonstrate their adeptness at political technology, they are quiet sometimes too. Sometimes they prefer to whisper in the client's ear, disparaging the produce available at their neighbor's stall – her pork is tough, that mutton's so old, that fat is unchewable. Trust me. But my son-in-law and I have real honey and young sheep.

The competition is tough on the market. The Ukrainian voter, who has had years to evaluate the worth of promises both blue and orange, is mercurial. He doesn't rush to the polls, preferring to steer clear of the market and study the offers thoroughly but from afar. He has time too, until next March.

In spite of the fact that most of the promises from the years of Ukrainian independence have gone unkept, including the promises of the Yushchenko team, people have not become apathetic and still believe, perhaps naively, that there is no insurmountable barrier between politics and daily life. And so elections are not a formality, the joyless fulfillment of civic duty. That is why, at the foreordained hour, the notorious administrative resources come into play to stimulate the process of expressing the will of the people.

The Ukrainian voter, whose curses at and arguments over parties, blocs and platforms are heartfelt, still sees elections as a real instrument of change in his life. That is the real different between modern Ukrainian politics and Russian politics, where the citizens vote out of inertia, electing the party of power, voting for the bosses, counting on the bosses he is voting for and trusting his fate to to decide everything for him and take care of him. That's what bosses are for.

The main question in the Ukrainian parliamentary elections is not how many votes the Yulia Timoshenko Bloc or Yushchenko's Our Ukraine gets, or how many Yanukovich's Regions or the socialists or the communists get. Or who leave which party for which party or which parties form coalitions in the Rada after the elections.

That's all interesting, but not the most interesting. The main question in where Ukraine will be headed after the elections, will the path of development they chose a year ago remain the same. The question will remain open, for it cannot be answered in the Cabinet alone. Not in Yushchenko's Cabinet, nor any other Ukrainian president's. We remind you again: Ukraine isn't Russia.

Source: Kommersant