Democracy in Ukraine – not how we expected

Over at Publius Pundit Jonathan Taylor is talking sense about Ukrainian democracy as defeated Presidential candidate Viktor Yanukovich takes over the Premiership:

But let us not forget that those revolutionaries did not protest only for Yushchenko; they were fighting for democracy. Yanukovich’s premiership is an accurate reflection of the political situation in Ukraine and thus another victory for democracy.

I’ve said it about democracy in Ukraine many times – it’s not about the people who get elected, it’s about the process by which they are elected.  If the people of Ukraine believe that the best way to choose their government is through a free and fair election, and they have the power to hold free and fair elections, then Ukraine is a democracy.

I have very little time for those who get upset when the ‘wrong’ government gets elected in one of the world’s many democratising countries.  Ukraine isn’t the only recent example – Lebanon and Palestine are other rather topical examples.

Because, lets face it, a country where the “right” party is always elected, is a dictatorship, not a democracy.

Belarus update

Now that the protests have died down in Belarus, a quick update of a few interesting stories I’ve seen today:

Not a lot of cheery news, unfortunately.

About the best we can hope for is that the opposition have learnt a lot of lessons that they can use in the future, that awareness of the situation in Belarus has spread massively, and that people in Belarus are aware that a sizeable opposition movement exists.

An Armenian Priest in Rwanda

Now here’s a blogger with an interesting take on genocide.

Father Vazken is an Armenian Priest, working in Rwanda. Here he writes of being introduced to some survivors of the 1994 genocide:

He introduced me as a grandchild of Armenian Genocide survivors. The ladies listened attentively. I tried to speak but got choked up. Was this not the scene of our parents? It was like looking through time in the aftermath of our Genocide, where women, children came together… where good intentioned souls got together to help. Did our mothers have the same support that these women have? How could they go on with their lives?

Armenia, of course, suffered an horrific genocide at the hands of the Ottoman Turks in 1915.

(Thanks to Onnik for the tip).

Man attacked with typewriter

A Russian man gets mad at a Ukrainian, and this is what happens:

“The molester threw a typewriter out of his window on the fifth floor, aiming at a passing Ukrainian citizen,” a source in the law enforcement agencies said.

The typewriter landed on the Ukrainian’s head and he had to be taken to hospital with skull injuries. A few hours later the police detained the assaulter, a Moscow resident who admitted his guilt.

The pen might not be mightier than the sword, but the typewriter, now that’s a real weapon.

(This post brought to you courtesy of the Mosnews appreciation society).

Protests planned for Ukrainian elections

In a move sure to delight pro-democracy activists the world over, Viktor Yanukovich has vowed to take to the streets of Kiev if the upcoming Ukrainian Parliamentary elections are marred by voter fraud.

Yanukovich, if you recall, was the pro-Russian candidate who tried to steal the Presidential election in 2004.  He was only prevented from doing so after a mass of people powered Ukraine to its now famous Orange Revolution.

And, it looks like he’s learned his lesson good.

Lukashenko – what is there to gain?

As protests in Belarus continue peacefully into their third day, here’s a question I’d like to throw into the mix:

  • Is Lukashenko gambling that the protests will eventually fizzle out of their own accord, and that, for allowing them to continue uninterrupted, he will enhance his democratic credentials?

I can’t see that the majority in the US and the EU are going to be swayed, but it could be a useful propaganda tool among both his own people, and the people of Russia.

Belarus update – the second night of protests

Just a quick note, because others are live blogging events better than I ever could:

About a ten thousand people made it to October Square last night, for another evening of peaceful protests. A mini-tent city has been set up, and about 1,000 people are reported to have stayed in the square overnight.

One of the night’s most revealing incidents was the arrest, and rapid release of Milinkevich’s two sons. Robert Meyer at Publius Pundit reports:

They were detained and charged with petty hooliganism at the polie department, but as soon as the police colonel found out who they are, he tore up the report and escorted them back to the square.

I think (hope) this demonstrates that the police are, if not yet sympathetic with the protestors yet, at least afraid of provoking them for fear of a negative public reaction (both domestic and international).

Alternatively, it could mean that Lukashenko has ordered police not to cause any trouble over minor incidents until he is ready. Rush Mush translates a less optimistic report from Hitroe Radio:

The police officers will support Lukashenka all the way to the end. The possibility that ordinary officers will switch sides is out of the question. We were talking to them for 2 hours without raising our voices, and there is no chance that they will switch sides. If they had an order, they would kill. On the 19th they were put on high alert five times, they were angry and ready to attack, but the alerts were cancelled.

Overall, though, one of the most revealing comments I’ve read (sorry, can’t remember where – Update: It was br23 blog.) was that although there were less protestors overall in the square last night, those that have stayed overnight seem far more determined to stay the distance.

The longer they can hang on, the larger the level of public support they will draw over the coming days.

More Belarus on Comment is Free

Another article on Belarus in the Guardian’s Comment is Free website – but oddly this one hasn’t got open comments.

The article, by Neil Almond is unsurprised by Lukashenko’s overwhelming election victory – according to Neil, its all because Lukashenko has built up the economy.  Not a mention of electoral fraud.

By protecting Belarus from the ravages of free-market fundamentalists and delivering economic growth and prosperity for the mass of Belarussians, Lukashenko has sown the seeds of a pluralistic society far better than by handing the state’s assets over to half a dozen cronies of western advisers.

Belarus is far from perfect, but it is a country where masses of ordinary people are getting on with life and getting a bit better off. That is why Lukashenko inspires fear and loathing in the thinktanks and foreign ministries of the west. By saving Belarus from mass unemployment he set a terrible example. What if the neighbours tried to copy it?

I’m not upset at the Guardian for printing this view.  What I am upset about is that they haven’t opened it up for comment.  Unless we have the opportunity to point out the stupidity of unbalanced arguments such as this, what is the point of Comment is Free?

Lets hope I’m jumping the gun, it’s just an administrative hitch, and comments will be opened later this morning.

Comment is Free – shape the debate

Timothy Garton Ash has a post about Belarus up at the Guardian’s new blog thingy, Comment is Free.
Most interesting about his post, though, is the way he is using it to gather ideas for a future column:

How do you think those who live in democracies – especially the democracies of Europe – should react? I’ll be writing about this in my Guardian column on Thursday. I’d appreciate your comments. Watch that post-Soviet space. Speak in this space.

My first reaction, I must admit, was to think… ‘why should I do your homework for you?’

But, on reflection, I find this a fascinating experiment.  In my day job, I work in policy, and one of our mantras is ‘shape the debate’.  By being the first organisation to speak on a subject, we can (if we do it right) set the parameters of any subsequent debate, ensuring that some topics are the centre of any discussion, and that others are more or less excluded.

In effect, instead of offering commentators the opportunity to respond to what he has already written, Garton Ash is offering commenters the chance to shape the debate on Belarus.
I have to applaud his experiment, and I really do look forward to seeing what he writes on Thursday, and comparing it to the comments he received.  And – full disclosure –  yes, I am one of those commenters who tried today to shape the debate.   (Hint… I’m the one with the most well reasoned, wise and witty arguments).
I hope more commenters follow his example.