Ukrainian election finally resolved

Viktor Yanukovych

Ukraine had an election about two weeks ago and now it appears as though the losing candidate has agreed to concede defeat to the winner, Viktor Yanukovych. If his name sounds familiar it is because he is the same candidate that lost in 2004 to the “Orange Revolution” candidate, Viktor Yushchenko. Yanukovych is set to be sworn in on February 25th and he already plans to visit Moscow, Russia within his first 2 weeks or so in office.

Since the 2004 election, Ukraine had plans to shift their country closer to the west and further away from Russia. This caused problems for Ukrainians as Russia became unforgiving with gas supplies that it sends to Europe through pipelines in Ukraine. This caused a lot of uncertainty within Ukraine and made the voters think again about whether they made the right choice (just what Russia wanted). Add to that, the economy was getting worse and was really bad during this global recession. In late 2008, Ukraine had to go to the IMF for a bailout just to stay afloat and in 2009, Ukrainian GDP decreased by 15% (a big drop any way you look at it). Since that 2004 election, Ukraine’s debt had become one of the most expensive to insure, which means that investors see a high risk that it will eventually default on those debt payments.

All this helped Yanukovych win this time around. If you recall in 2004, he was seen by a majority of Ukrainians as a puppet of Russia and there were concerns that he wanted to end democracy in Ukraine. However, 6 tough years later, Ukrainians have warmed up to him. He did help himself a little by telling voters that he is not going to be Putin’s go to guy, but I for one do not really believe him on that. Regardless, now it appears that Ukraine will have much closer ties with Russia and possibly a cooling off with Europe and the US.

For Ukrainians, this might be ok for them economically in the short term (although the world economy is getting better now anyway), but in terms of human rights and freedoms, they may be taking a few steps back. Hopefully, they will have more elections in the future now that Russia’s choice is in office. Also, hopefully the past 6 years have not turned Ukrainians off of close ties to the west for good because much of the failures had more to do with a poorly run government and a bad global recession than it did western influences and principles.