How healthy is Ukrainian democracy?  It's a question of immense interest not only in Ukraine but to countries elsewhere in the world, including the United Kingdom, which are keen to see a stable, democratic and prosperous Ukraine more closely integrated with the European Union.  The fact that Ukraine is a beacon of democracy in the CIS is central to EU and UK support.  That is why, in my blog of 3 March ("A bad decision for Ukrainian democracy") I expressed concern at the decision of the Rada on 16 February to cancel an earlier resolution to hold local government elections on 30 May 2010, without setting a new date for those elections to take place.

Subsequent to the Rada decision I was pleased to have the opportunity, when G8 ambassadors met President Yanukovych on 10 March, to note the importance of setting an early date for the local elections.  Mr Yanukovych responded positively, saying they would definitely take place this year, probably in the autumn.  This message was later repeated by a presidential spokesman.  This was most reassuring.  But there have been other reports since then which had again seemed to indicate that the elections might be delayed beyond the end of the year.  

Against this background I was pleased to see reports this week that some MPs  in the Rada have decided to propose scheduling the local elections for 31 October.  This looks like good news for Ukrainian democracy.  While one may debate the significance of many events in Ukraine, there is no doubt that a decision to delay an election beyond a constitutionally-set deadline would send a damaging signal about Ukraine's democratic credentials.  So, as I said back in March, I hope that all the MPs and parties in the Rada will ensure that a date is set soon for the local government elections to take place at the first opportunity.

Leigh Turner
British Ambassador to Ukraine

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