AMBASSADOR'S BLOG - UKRAINIAN ELECTION: BEST AND WORST OUTCOME

Kyiv
02.02.10




What are the best and the worst possible outcome of the Ukrainan presidential election on 7 February?  The best is pretty clear.  This is that the elections are recognised by the OSCE/ODIHR observer mission as being to a good standard; both sides accept the outcome; and the winner takes over as president.  Countries around the world congratulate Ukraine on another exemplary election and transfer of power, consolidating Ukraine's democratic credentials and strengthening the case for intensifying relations with the EU .  Great.  My guess is that this is the likeliest course of events.

There's also a possibility things could go less well.  As happened before the first round, some people on both sides are accusing their opponents of planning to fix the polls in their electoral heartlands, or - devilishly - of planning to make it look as if the other side has done so.  That way, the logic goes, whoever loses will have plenty of justification to cry foul and refuse to accept the result.  Such uncertainty could lead to delays, court cases and confusion.  So I hope, as the Europe Ministers of the UK, Germany, France and Poland wrote on Saturday, that if the OSCE/ODIHR mission gives a favourable verdict on the quality of the election, the losing side will accept the result and the new president can get on with running the country.

But rumours are going around of a possible outcome of the 7 February election which would be worse than the losing side not accepting the result and going to court.  People on both sides have accused each other of planning, should they lose, to incite trouble on the streets of Kyiv.  There have even been references to one side or the other having armed men ready to deploy.  The aim, it is alleged, will be for the losers to provoke trouble and so to bring the result of the election into disrepute.  Some politicians argue that it is therefore reasonable to pre-station groups of stout supporters around the city in order to prevent any attempt by their opponents to cause unrest.

Personally, I'm not a great believer in conspiracies.  So a lot of these rumours sound like dangerous loose talk to me.  There were many allegations of potential misdeeds before the first round of the presidential election on 17 January.  Most turned out to be wrong.  I find it hard to believe that any Ukrainian politician really wants to bring violence to the streets of Kyiv - particularly when the Orange Revolution of 2004, involving hundreds of thousands of protesters over a period of months, was peaceful.  It goes without saying that any violence would damage Ukraine's reputation as a beacon of democracy in the region.  So I hope that the rumours turn out to be no more than that; and that both sides will keep calm and let the debate about who should run Ukraine be decided where it belongs - at the ballot box.


Leigh Turner
British Ambassador to Ukraine

NOTE:  You can read all of Ambassador Turner's blogs by visiting: http://blogs.fco.gov/roller/turner



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