Since independence in 1990, Ukraine was suffering from major regime upturns: electoral fraud, corruption, economic instability, the transfer of public property into the hands of loyal oligarchs, censorship, and too much power concentration in the Presidential office. The “Orange Revolution” of 2004 that brought into power Victor Yushchenko and Yulia Tymoshenko was expected to change things in domestic politics and re-itinerate the bilateral relations with Russia into a more balanced parntership. Eight years after what has been finally done?
The win of the pro-Russian Victor Yanukovych in 2004 elections was vigorously contested by the joint opposition of Yushchenko and Tymoshenko, as well as from the Supreme Court which ruled that elections had been largely rigged. After the challenge of the elections outcome, people were gathered for days in the Independence Square in Kyiv and across the country demanding fair elections and the fall of Yanukovych. I remember well these days, me and my fellow Ukrainians and foreign political analysts and observers that we were covering the event and the harsh upheavals under unbearable cold.
The outcome of these large demonstrations was the fall of Yanukovych and the initiation of the so-called “Orange Revolution” headed by Yushchenko and Tymoshenko. The “dream” of the Ukrainians for a more democratized regime, independent from indirect Russian control, lasted only for 2 years, when in 2006 Yanukovych returned into power with the Alliance of National Unity. In 2007 Tymoshenko re-came into power in the snap elections, but 3 years after, in 2010, Yanukovych came again into the Presidential seat. A quite puzzling situation undoubtedly.
These backs-and-forths of the political system in Ukraine were the major structural problems of the entire political regime that could not get along with reforms and the final establishment of the “Orange Revolution”. But these are also the structural problems for the majority of the post-communist states being previously under the umbrella and influence of the Russian Federation, and since 1990 striving for gaining real political, economic, and social independence. There is always the feeling that the communist past of USSR is present in many countries and that the public is consistently deceived by the political leaders, no matter if they step for independence or attachement to Kremlin.
The major key for the weakness of the Ukrainian political system to dismantle from Russia is the fact that the country is dependent to gas supply. Ukraine, while being the first station of gas transmission in Europe, it is also subjected to the relevant political conditions in Russia and the bilateral relations of the countries that Ukraine need to nourish in order to avoid any cuts in the provision of gas. There are plenty of times that Russia decided to cut off gas flow to Kyiv with collateral damage the “shivering” of Europe during winter, as for instance in 2009-10.
This blurry political landscape continues up to our days, as Tymoshenko, while being hospitalized, is managing to forge compromises and help unite Ukraine’s fractured opposition parties, in the view of the parliamentary elections next Sunday. Eight years after the launch of the “Orange Revolution” nothing has literally changed towards more democracy and less corruption, and the political environment still survives with the same figures in exchanging roles. And with no alternative ahead, the remnants of the “Orange Revolution”, that has never been shaped into a certain model of governance, will continue dominating Ukraine politics.Dimitris Rapidis