Thursday, September 29, 2005

Some themes

Some of the themes I have seen in articles and my response to them:


1. Yuschenko resurrected Yanukovych. This was mentioned in some articles and was a question asked by an anonymous poster to the website. As a question, it is a good one. As a statement of fact, it is not incontrovertible.

Does it give Yanukovych more status than he had? It may in the minds of people but Yanukovych had no status prior to that agreement. He was a no show as the opposition. You would hear some sniping from the trees by people like Chernovil (his last campaign manager) but it was petty stuff, not the campaign on a broad front that it should be by a serious candidate representing the opposition. (“This government isn’t professional!” said Chernovil. Not a very original statement and not much of an opposition campaign. As an opening salvo, fine. But if that constitutes the whole broadside, pitiful. And that was it.) The agreement showed everyone that Yanukovych was still alive. That may be something to know but it doesn’t go very far in making him formidable opposition. At least, not considering where he has been.

And that agreement is really not much of anything anyway. I said that it can be repudiated and it can. The charge would be opportunism but that is the charge right now. Does that charge help Yanukovych?

The funny thing is that Yanukovych was called in to the prosecutor’s office to answer questions a day or two ago. His supporters said it violated the memorandum. It may have but it just goes to show that Yuschenko has the power so he has he advantage.

The real argument is that it somehow rehabilitates Yanukovych in the minds of the people or that it grants some sort of legitimacy to him. I think it does neither. For rehabilitation, that would mean that an agreement signed by Yuschenko served to change the minds of the people regarding Yanukovych. “He is a bandit but since Yuschenko dealt with him maybe not.” Those ardently for the Orange Revolution were ardently against Yanukovych. The tone of the responses to the memo by those supporters is one of betrayal by Yuschenko not of reconciliation with Yanukovych.

Legitimacy would be a weaker benefit for Yanukovych but it suffers from the same problems: He is a bandit to the supporters. Could it affect any swing voters? I don’t know that there are any. People already have their opinions formed on Yanukovych. In the West, see the first sentence. In the East, he has a lot of support; some of it may be a little soft. But he represents the interests of the eastern part of the country and they just put up with anything else. Who else represents the interests of the East especially after the Orange Revolution? It does a government and a people no good to write off half a country.

Then there’s the idea that Yanukovych could remain a protest vote option, a kind of “devil-we-know.” That is something that is hard to gauge but he would have been that anyway. The memo doesn’t make that any more likely than it was before. There isn’t anyone in Ukraine now who doesn’t know who he is. If his name were on the ballot they would know it--he has name recognition galore. The question would be: Would they vote for him if they were disillusioned by all other parties? I doubt it, but I guess it’s possible. The disillusionment would have to be complete and I don’t see that as being all that likely.

I do have to issue a caveat here. This is based on what Yanukovych has done since the Revolution. It might be that an effective opposition could be mounted by him—the targets of opportunity are all over the place. (Military types would call it a “target-rich environment.”) We heard today that some of the Russian “political technologists”—spin doctors—are making there way back here again. They have learned their lesson according to the report and won’t make the same mistakes again (they said in all lack of humility.) That remains to be seen. It's hard to be effective when you see your adversary as a backwoods hick who stares out in wide-eyed astonishment at the high sophistication of the tailored suits from Moscow. That they see Ukraine as beneath them is the lesson they should have learned. Did they learn it? It’s possible but I doubt it.

But if some kind of effective campaign can be launched for Yanukovych, his stock could go up with some voters. “We had 12% growth when I was PM. Gasoline was cheaper and so was chicken, pork and everything else. Was there corruption? Yes, there was. And the man responsible for it, the man who also worked to take the vote away from the people, is no longer in government. He is out and well he should be. But he is running around loose when he should have been arrested and prosecuted. Why hasn’t he been arrested and prosecuted? He worked to steal the election from the people for his own purposes unknown to me at the time. But he runs now at large, scoffing at the people he sought to defraud, untouched by the law. Why is that? Ask Yuschenko why. I suppose the answer is that if he got something from Yuschenko, Yuschenko must have gotten something from him….” Or something like that.

Anyway, if he comes up with an effective campaign, he could end up with some more legitimacy—it remains to be seen how much more. But that depends on him and his organization, not on the memorandum. And to date, there has been not much of anything coming from his camp.

To be continued…

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