With both outgoing President Leonid Kuchma and his own campaign manager deserting him to call for new elections, Viktor Yanukovych may be looking for a new first name. That’s obviously good news, unless you write for the Guardian.
On the other hand, the Russophile-and-mafiya bloc behind Yanukovych includes the leadership of the Donetsk Basin, and those leaders are now threatening quasi-secession and defiance of the central government if Yanukovych is not inaugurated, in a mirror image of the threats earlier issued by Yuschenko supporters in the western region. (But at least one of Yanukovych’s billionaire supporters, and at least one Russian-owned company, were sufficiently freaked out by those threats that they publicly denounced them.) Obviously, Yanukoych has no chance of winning anything like a fair revote, but this isn’t a situation where a united population is kicking out a despised tyranny, and Yuschenko clearly won’t have an easy time if he does take power.
That’s especially true if Putin decides to be a sore loser. Apparently it was from Putin that Kuchma got the order to announce a Yanukovych victory. That suggests that, in carry a message to Kuchma warning against a rigged election, Richard Lugar was talking to the monkey instead of the organ-grinder.
The bad news in Tuesday’s New York Times — if it’s true — is that Bush seems to be backing off from Powell’s firm line in support of democracy. I’m not convinced that it’s true: everything in the story is consistent with a standard good-cop, bad-cop routine. (On the other hand, Mike Allen of the Post puts the same spin on the story, perhaps reflecting White House guidance; to say that “there’s just a lot of allegations of vote fraud” and that “the validity of their elections is in doubt” is certainly rather weaselly, and well short of saying that the result as announced can’t be allowed to stand.)
At minimum, it is clear that the Bush Administration thinks it needs Putin’s help, and that it will be reluctant to react strongly if Putin, having allowed Yuschenko to take power, then stirs up trouble for him. Can you say “overstretched”?
>(Dan Drezner has made himself Ukraine Central, and reports on lots of complexity.) More coverage at A Fistful of Euros, including this grim story on an outbreak of organized violence from the Yanukovych forces, with the police standing by.