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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Welcome, freedom


Texans have always had a soft place in their hearts for democracy, as the founding fathers of the state fought to make it a republic. Texans in the military are working to stabilize democracy in places like Iraq and Afghanistan. Therefore, it is prudent that Texans carefully observe the events that are unfolding after the national election in Ukraine.
In this nation, a young democracy has become threatened by fraud and corruption. Mass public rejection of the election results have occurred, and the success of the counter party’s campaign to have a new, fair election is essential for the perceived health of democracy worldwide.
The conflict in Ukraine began on Nov. 24, when prime minister Viktor Yanukovych surprisingly won a final runoff election. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe released a statement saying that the procedure for the election “did not meet a considerable number of (international) commitments for democratic elections.” Large differences between exit polls and actual results – the polls indicated that Viktor Yushchenko won – led to strong public rejection.
The next day, thousands of Yushchenko’s supporters, proudly displaying the orange color of the opposition party, gathered in Kiev to protest the results. Yushchenko began to openly state that the election was fraudulent, and demanded a new election. CNN reports that Yushchenko claims to have proof that “at least 3 million votes were falsified.” The next day, Secretary of State Colin Powell declared that because of “extensive and credible reports of fraud in the election,” the United States would not accept the results.
The Orange Revolution, as it is now called, is proof that the democracy established in countries formerly under Soviet control is what Ukrainians really want. The rebellion involves young and old, rich and poor. Many of the supporters are students or members of Ukraine’s growing middle class. The BBC reported that these people, many of who “have traveled abroad” and “obtained Western degrees,” know enough about other democracies that they will not accept their current system full of “red tape and cronyism.”
The supporters of Yushchenko got what they wanted on Dec. 3 when Ukraine’s Supreme Court said the original election was fraudulent and that a new election between Yanukovych and Yushchenko would take place on Dec. 26. According to the BBC, this move had probably prevented any violence as “both sides in the conflict have said they will abide by the court’s decision.”
This result was hailed as great progress by both the European Union and the United States. White House spokesman Scott McClellan said, “the court’s decision is an important step in moving toward a peaceful, democratic resolution that reflects the will of the people.”
Yet, this court result did not end the dispute in Ukraine. Yanukovych’s party, expecting a defeat, quickly tried to force constitutional reforms through the Ukraine parliament. According to CNN, these reforms were a blatant effort by the party in power to “weaken the presidency” before the position was won by Yushchenko in the next election. Distrust of the old party has convinced the thousands of Yushchenko supporters to remain in the streets of Kiev until the new elections are held.
The future looks bright for Ukraine, as the BBC predicts that Yushchenko will win the elections easily. On Dec. 7, it was announced “OSCE is discussing whether to nearly double its number of poll monitors in Ukraine to 1,000.” This move would ensure that the election would be closely watched, and that the results will meet the standards of important fellow democracies.
Many people in the United States take freedom to vote for granted, but this event is proof that a fair election is never a guaranteed thing. On the day after Christmas, hopefully the Ukrainians will get the present they want – an election they can trust – without bloodshed.

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