Tuesday, July 25, 2006 at 5:52 AM
And, in April 2005, I published this laudatory and hopeful commentary on Yushchenko’s historic visit to the United States, where he was hailed – during a joint session of Congress – as “the George Washington of the Ukraine.”
By September, however, I was obliged to lament Yushchenko’s failure of leadership, which now had many erstwhile supporters pining for a return to communist rule. Because, instead of implementing reforms to eradicate corruption, establish fiscal transparency and set his country on a path toward sustainable economic development, Yushchenko’s government was paralyzed by infighting (as I chronicled in this article) and never delivered on any of the promises its democratic foot soldiers fought for.
It was not surprising therefore that Yushchenko’s most decisive act as president was sacking Tymoshenko. Unfortunately, this only deepened disaffection with his leadership and exacerbated the democratic growing pains of all Ukrainians. And to make matters worse, instead of going quietly, Tymoshenko led a mutiny against him, which caused their governing coalition to crumble in abject failure.
This in turn led to new elections held last March in which pervasive disillusionment with Ukrainian democracy resulted in the improbable return to power of unreformed communists led by Viktor Yanukovych – the man Yushchenko claims ordered his assassination. But, ironically, just as the communists did all they could to thwart the democratic will of the Ukrainian people in November 2004, democrats mobilized to prevent them from ruling now.
To this end, Yushchenko and Tymoshenko kissed and made up to form what they hoped would be a more successful second opportunity to govern the country. Despite their reconciliation, however, the democrats were so thoroughly defeated at the polls that Yanukovych still managed to form a majority coalition – called the Party of Regions and comprised of socialists and communists in Ukraine’s 450-member parliament.
However, because he and Tymoshenko were unable to outmaneuver the communists democratically, Yushchenko resorted to his presidential prerogative to refuse to endorse Yanukovych as prime minister. Thus, since last March, Ukraine has been without a government.
And, just last Thursday, Tymoshenko – betraying who really wears the pants in her political marriage with Yushchenko – revealed that it was her Machiavellian plan to prolong this impasse. She calculated that if she could prevent Yanukovych from meeting today’s constitutional deadline to form a government, then Yushchenko could exercise his right to dissolve parliament and call for Ukraine’s third general election in 18 months.
Nonetheless, truth be told, Tymoshenko made it plain that if Yushchenko had endorsed Yanukovych as prime minister that SHE would have considered it:
…a betrayal of Ukraine’s national interest!
Clearly, Yushchenko deferred to her devises. And, accordingly, he’s expected to dissolve parliament today and announce new elections that, hopefully, will finally put an end to Ukraine’s long democratic nightmare….
NOTE: In homage to Winston Churchill’s famous dictum that “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time,” I submit that American democracy is the worst ever practiced, except for all other democracies that have been tried and found even more wanton. Unfortunately, an unintended consequence of America’s bad practices is that many new democracies are emulating them.
For example, in an egregious affront to the principles of democracy, Americans have routinely undermined democratically-elected governments based on philosophical bias (as they did recently with the Chavez government in Venezuela, the Hamas government in Palestine and – are trying to do – with the Shiite government in Iraq).
And, although the irony (if not hypocrisy) seems completely lost on them, Yushchenko and Tymoshenko are merely doing as the Americans do by going to such extreme lengths to prevent democratically-elected communists from governing the Ukraine. But, like the Americans who are paying dearly, at home and abroad, for continually sacrificing democratic principles at the altar of political expediency, so too will Ukrainian democrats harbor and foster resentments that will plague their democracy for years to come.