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Ukraine - the Orange Revolution

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Jack Norris

Government 383

Dr. Vanderhill

Ukraine- The Orange Revolution

        Ukraine gained its independence from Russia in 1991. This independence lacked a social revolution and elite turnover.¹ For over thirteen years it was ruled by former Communist operatives and industrial executives that worked with corrupt entrepreneurs and members of the mafia, who were usually the same.¹ The Orange Revolution in Ukraine was the overdue social revolution that should have occurred after the nation dismissed Communism and gained its independence in 1991.¹ The people of Ukraine endured unethical capitalism, government corruption, lack of civil rights, and political scandals for years.¹ In the end, it was these political scandals under President Leonid Kuchma that caused the people of Ukraine to take action against the regime. The 2004 election fraud by then President Kuchma and his hand picked heir, Vikto Yanukovych, sparked widespread protest from the citizens of Ukraine. Through nonviolent protest and strong opposition, the citizens were able to achieve fair, democratic elections and overthrow the regime.

        Although the Orange Revolution in 2004 was the critical factor in overthrowing the fraudulent regime, popular support for the opposition began after the parliamentary elections of 2002. The three main actors in this election were Kuchma, Yuliia Tymoshenko, and Viktor Yushchenko.2 The regimes political parties included For a United Ukraine and Social-Democratic Party of Ukraine (SDPU), while the oppositions parties included Our Ukraine (Yushchenko), Tymoshenko bloc and the Socialists.2 Yushchenko built up his base of support by including the traditional right as well as business owners.2 He built Our Ukraine into a brand that contrasted the old Ukraine, which was the one run by Kuchma.2 Tymoshenko ran on a more radical platform that included parties such as the Fatherland and the Republicans.2 The regime countered the opposition by creating fake parties in order to take votes away from the opposition. These parties included Yabluko and the KOP.2 On election day, it was clear these fake parties were not very effective as the opposition won 112 seats out of 225 in parliament which was only one away from a majority.2 Fraud was limited during this election due to international supervision as well as the use of an exit poll which was funded by Western embassies.2 The popular vote was only half of the fight however.[pic 1]

        The Rada has 450 seats and the other 225 seats were elected by first-past-the-post basis.2 The opposition only won 54 of these seats while the regime won 161 by nominating their own people and pressuring independents to join them.2 The regime still did not have a majority so they began to tear the opposition out of parliament. They did this by pressuring businessmen that had sided with Yuschenko and sabotaging their businesses.2 The regime also bribed members of parliament to defect to their side or drop all together.2 The regime spent $15 million in order to win the majority in parliament.2 The regime had successfully stolen parliament from the opposition but it had shown its weakness’. The opposition learned from this experience and was much more prepared when the 2004 presidential election took place. [pic 2]

        The people of Ukraine had been awaiting the 2004 presidential election for years. This was the end of Kuchma’s second term as president and the 1996 constitution stated that a president could not serve for more than two terms.3 Plus, Kuchma’s approval rating was in the single digits so it would have been impossible for him to be reelected without overt fraud.3 The opposition felt that this was the election that could finally put an end to the regime and usher in a true democratic government.

        Yushchenko was clearly the favorite to run in the election for the opposition. He had a great amount of support but he had to campaign hard in order to ensure his victory. He started his campaign by convincing Tymoshenko to not run in the election, and to instead back him.2 This increased support for Yushchenko as now all of Tymoshenko’s supporters were now his. Yushchenko also gained support unofficially from the youth organization Pora.2 This group was instrumental in the oppositions campaign because they emphasized non-violence, mocked authorities and dispelled the fear of repression, and also encouraged people to exercise their right to vote.2 The opposition also chose the color orange to represent their campaign. Orange was chosen for a couple of reasons, the first being that the presidential election was to be held in October which is when the main street in the capital of Kiev was lined with horse chestnuts and autumn leaves.2 The second reason was that the opposition wanted to distance themselves from the regimes national colors which were blue and yellow.2 The opposition thought that orange created a more peaceful and cheery brand.2[pic 3]

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