President Yanukovych Turns One: What Has He Learned? What Has He Taught Us?- PART 1

By Dr. Olga Onuch, Petro Jacyk Fellow in Ukrainian Studies, U of T, CERES.

Happy First Birthday Mister President!
I have asked the contributors to write different analyses of the first year of Yanukovych’s Presidency for the launch of our monthly blog Ukraine Watch, hosted by the Petro Jacyk Program for The Study of Ukraine and CERES at the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto. To this end I also offer up my two cents.

From 18, to 2, to 1: The Road to President
It is not a secret that the 2010 presidential elections in Ukraine were plagued by a conflict filled build up and polarized result.  Let us recap: Viktor Yanukovych won with 12,481,266 votes and 48.95 % as compared to his opponent Yulia Tymoshenko who received 11,593,357 votes and 45.47%.  Thus, again in a country o million   and  25,493,529 votes cast  the president won by a margin of 887 909 votes or 3.48%. Thus, more voters chose the “against all” option at 1,113,055 votes or 4.36 %, then the winning margin.

Snow White and the 18 Dwarfs: Ukrainian Electoral Populism: The dwarfs sought to wake up post-revolutionary disillusioned voters by ramping up identity and populist rhetoric. But this is nothing new. Populism has been the mainstay of electoral politics since the 2004 Presidential Elections

Although there were no public debates and populist rhetoric won over solid ideological and policy differences (see illustrations below for an example), each of the top candidates received due airtime, even if government funds were misused and private funds controlled the content and questions on the largest private networks’ prime time shows. Most notably, these live shows included “Shuster Live” on Ukraina with Savik Shuster, “Svoboda Slova” (Fredom of Speech) on ICTV with Andriy Kulikov, “Ya Tak Dumaiu” (‘I Think So’ or ‘In My Oppinion’) on Channel 5 with Anna Bezulyk and “Big politics with Yevgeniy Kiselev” (‘Velyka Politika’) on Inter Tv with Yevgeniy Kiselev.

And even though there were instances of electoral fraud in individual precincts, the international  organisations such as the OCSE  and foreign governments gave their stamp of  approval and noted that the election was the “most free and fair” in Ukraine to date. The world seemingly agreed that “yes, Ukraine is a democracy”.

… the story continues.

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