A compromise slowly taking shape may soon redirect the "orange
revolution" from the streets to the polling booths, but many here
say the past 16 days of peaceful upheaval and sharp public debate
have stretched Ukraine's political institutions and changed the
"I'm very tired and prepared to go home as soon as it's clear
we'll get new elections," says Andrei Pashkeyevich, a local disc
jockey who's lived in a tent on Kiev's main street, Kreshatik, along
with thousands of others, mainly students, from around the country.
Their numbers have been dwindling since Ukraine's Supreme Court
invalidated the fraud-plagued Nov. 21 presidential election last
week and they have relaxed a crippling blockade of government
buildings, but they remain the dominant force in central Kiev.
Mr. Pashkeyevich says the experience of public protest has been
an education, and if he sees vote-rigging or power abuse in future,
he'll be back in the streets in an instant. "We've all learned
something through this, and it must never be lost," he says.
Outgoing President Leonid Kuchma still controls the state machine
while his anointed heir, Viktor Yanukovich, insists he will run
again "and win" in fresh voting slated for Dec. 26, but the liberal
challenger Viktor Yushchenko increasingly appears to be the one
setting the agenda.
Contentious issues remain, but most experts say the new election
will certainly take place and, with a vastly beefed-up foreign
observer presence and alert public mood, they are likely to be
relatively clean. "I am sure there will be an election, and that
Yushchenko will win," says Volodymyr Zmyr, deputy editor of
Philosophical and Sociological Thought, an academic journal. "Our
society has moved, people have changed so much, it's all different
now," he says.
Mr. Kuchma agreed Monday to dismiss the old corruption-tainted
Central Election Commission, and called on parliament to pass
measures that will ensure a fair and transparent vote. But Tuesday,
amid opposition claims that the president was exploiting the crisis
to find some means of hanging onto power after his term expires,
Kuchma announced the deal had collapsed - the third such compromise
to break down in less than a week.
The orange wave in Kiev appears to have forced a rethink in the
Kremlin, which openly backed Mr. Yanukovich in last month's now-
discredited election. Speaking to journalists during a visit to
Turkey, President Vladimir Putin said he "is ready to work with any
elected leader" a signal that Moscow may be resigned to a Yushchenko-
run Ukraine. And he insisted that Russia's actions "are absolutely
tactful throughout the former Soviet space, we are doing nothing
Yushchenko wants Yanukovich, officially on vacation, to resign
from his job as prime minister and for Ukraine's reluctant Rada, or
parliament, to pass laws aimed at making the next round of the
elections more transparent and tamper-resistant. …