The Orange Revolution at the Crossroads

Article excerpt

Abstract: The November-December 2004 Orange Revolution led to the election of Viktor Yushchenko as Ukraine's third president. Yushchenko's presidency has been associated with a number of important democratic gains, such as the holding of free and fair elections, a free media, an active civil society, the dissociation of oligarchs from a corrupt relationship with the authorities, and a more robust commitment to Euro-Atlantic integration. The Orange Revolution went into crisis in September 2005, when the Tymoshenko government was removed, culminating in the victory of the Party of Regions, led by Viktor Yanukovych, in the March 2006 elections. Following five months of coalition negotiations, a revived Orange coalition was replaced by first an Anti-Crisis and then a National Unity coalition, with a government led by Prime Minister Yanukovych. The signing of a "Universal" agreement by President Yushchenko, Prime Minister Yanukovych, and three other parliamentary parties, aims to maintain Ukraine's democratic gains through the continued pursuit of Yushchenko's domestic and foreign policies. The Orange Revolution has reached a crossroads, with either the consolidation of further reforms begun by the Orange Revolution, or a return to the policies pursued in the Kuchma era.

Key words: democratization, Orange Revolution, Our Ukraine, PR, Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, Universal Crisis, Viktor Yushchenko, Yulia Tymoshenko

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Ukraine is in the second year of an Orange coalition following the election of Viktor Yushchenko as president in January 2005. President Yushchenko came to power on the back of the Orange Revolution, ostensibly the fifth democratic revolution in a postcommunist state. (1) The Orange Revolution and Yushchenko's electoral victory have brought a number of positive developments, such as media freedom, greater civil society activity, free and fair elections, the breaking of ties between oligarchs and organized crime, and lower levels of corruption and rent seeking at the senior levels. (2) These developments led to the New York-based Freedom House to upgrade Ukraine from "semi-free" to "free" in 2006, the first CIS state to be moved into this category. These positive developments, which place Ukraine on a different trajectory than Russia and the bulk of the CIS, (3) are not in doubt. What is potentially in doubt is to what degree these positive developments could be rolled back after the return of Viktor Yanukovych as prime minister in August 2006, following six months of crisis that placed a dark shadow over Ukraine's first free and fair election on March 26, 2006.

Ukraine's Orange coalition fell into crisis in September 2005 and has not reunited; Yanukovych's return to the government in August 2006 has led to an irreversible split in the Orange coalition. Negotiations to rebuild an Orange parliamentary coalition took place over three months following the March 2006 parliamentary elections. However, following the defection of the smallest of the three political parties that created the coalition, the Socialist Party (SPU), the Orange coalition disintegrated before proposing its government.

During the coalition negotiations and parliamentary crisis following the March 2006 elections, acting secretary of the National Security and Defense Council (NRBO), Volodymyr Horbulin, stated that Ukraine is in the midst of a "crisis of constitutional reform." The head of the presidential secretariat, Oleh Rybachuk, also believes that Ukraine has slipped "into a political and constitutional crisis." The "crisis" was fuelled by a fully proportional election (4) and the introduction of constitutional reforms, which transformed Ukraine from a semipresidential to a parliamentary-presidential republic. Some of the "crisis" is therefore attributable to the switch to a new political system that will be beneficial to Ukraine's democratization in the medium term. Postcommunist countries that have adopted parliamentary systems are better at democratizing than those in the CIS who have superpresidential systems. …

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