Friday, November 26, 2004

The Supreme Court

The Supreme Court issued what amounts to a stay of the certification of the president yesterday pending a review of a petition filed by Yuschenko. The Supreme Court is one of the independent power centers in the government of the Ukraine, at least in principle. It invalidated some of the voting stations that were going to be set up in Russia in the October 31 vote. That was something that flew in the face of the interests of Kuchma and Yanukovych. This is a hopeful sign.

On a local talk radio station yesterday, however, a woman purporting to be the wife of one of the justices called in with some infomration that is not hopeful.

She would not identify herself for fear of a potential for retaliation and said that the justices were under enormous amounts of pressure on this case. She was not clear where that pressure was coming from, whether it was direct from the government or as a result of some sort moral pressure because of the people demonstating on the streets. She did though say she was fearful for her husband and family because they had received death threats. Those threats were directed at her children.

In this country, political opponents tend to meet with accidents and some are outright killed. Ukraine has a high number of politicians who die in traffic accidents, some say the highest in the world. Some might put it down to the high rate of fatalities on Ukrainian roads which is a fact. Politicans would be more likely to have cars and would be more likely to drive them than other people in the Ukraine. But some others think differently. These are convinced that it is open season on anyone who crosses powerful interests either in the government or in business. They think that if you run afoul of these entrenched, powerful interests your life is not worth much. And there is some reason to beleive this is true. A reporter name Gongadze was foiund dead and there is a tape with the voice of someone who sounds like Kuchma arranging to have it done. This is well known. Gongadze was a prominent critic of Kuchma.

So she might have reason to be worried and the pressure because of such a thing would be intense and maybe even unbearable for these judges in the end. But this just highlights the fact again that in this part of the world (and in some others also--let's be fair) looking up what the law says may not be the controlling precedent. A threat to self or family can make for a much more effective one.

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