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Issue #1444      24 February 2010

Ukrainian elections: it’s the economy

Victor Yanukovich will be inaugurated as president of the Ukraine on February 25. His win in the second round against Yulia Timoshenko was officially recognised despite the fact that Timoshenko turned out to be a bad loser and is still toying with the idea of challenging the results. But the mood in the electorate is pretty much against playing politics – everybody wants something done with the economy and other problems that people face in real life.

Victor Yanukovich has declared that he wants an “audit” of the Ukrainian economy. Even without one it is clear that the problems are many and serious.

Former President Yuschenko put out a “10 steps towards people” program before he was dumped by the electorate. The Party of Regions had a look at the 10 points and pointed out that:

Step 1 – creating one million work places has failed. According to the International Labour Organisation every tenth Ukrainian is jobless and the numbers are growing.

Step 2 – providing priority financing of social programs. 23.3 percent of Ukrainians lived below poverty line before the crisis. In 2009 the figure rose to 37-40 percent below the poverty line.

Step 3 – reducing taxes. There are more than 100 taxes. 45.4 percent of the economy is a so-called “shadow economy”.

Step 4 – fighting corruption. According to Transparency International the Ukraine is the 146th in the list of 180 countries which are most corrupt. It went down 12 points in 2009 alone.

Step 5 – strengthening the rule of law, making sure “everybody is equal before the law”. There was certain progress in this regard – some high ranking people of the Yuschenko administration were outed as criminals, paedophiles, corrupt individuals with false diplomas, etc. Very little punishment if any followed the revelations.

Step 6 – protection of family values and rights of children. When Yuschenko came to power the population of the Ukraine was 47,622,500 people; after his term the population is 46,143,700 people. The number of orphans increased by 50 percent.

Step 7 – strengthening democratic, moral and spiritual values. The shameful neglect of WW2 veterans and glorification of Hitler’s supporters in the Ukraine responsible for thousands of deaths caused Russia, Israel and many other countries to express fury and disgust at the blatant re-writing of history.

Step 8 – assisting countryside development. Almost 5,000 villages do not have schools though 90 percent of them have 40-60 school age children. There are no hospitals in 2,400 villages with the population over 500. About 2,300 villages with the population of over 800 have to bring in water.

Step 9 – creation of professional army. Since 2005 funding has been cut and according to military experts the Ukrainian army could lose its military capability within 2-3 years.

Step 10 – foreign policy aimed at protecting Ukraine’s interests. The biggest failure of the Yuschenko administration. Trying to win Western friends not only undermined economic cooperation with Russia but caused political upheavals as well. In 2005 for instance Victor Yuschenko denounced Cuba for its “undemocratic regime” because George W Bush had asked him to. That is despite the fact that Cuba is the only country in the world which still treats Ukrainian children who were affected by the Chernobyl disaster free of charge. It is also supplying Georgia with arms, trying to join NATO against the expressed wish of the population and fanning ethnic tensions.

Huge tasks facing the Ukraine will take time and a very concerted effort to resolve. If anything, the close election results showed that the country is almost split into two.

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