Orange Revolution

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Orange-clad demonstrators gather in the Independence Square in Kiev on 22 November, 2004. On some days, the number of protesters in the center of Kiev reached hundreds of thousands (one million by some estimates)

The Orange Revolution (Ukrainian: Помаранчева революція, Pomarancheva revolyutsiya) was a series of protests and political events that took place in Ukraine from late November 2004 to January 2005, in the immediate aftermath of the run-off vote of the 2004 Ukrainian presidential election which was claimed to be marred by massive corruption, voter intimidation and direct electoral fraud. Kiev, the Ukrainian capital, was the focal point of the movement with thousands of protesters demonstrating daily. Nationwide, the democratic revolution was highlighted by a series of acts of civil disobedience, sit-ins, and general strikes organized by the opposition movement.

The protests were prompted by reports from several domestic and foreign election monitors as well as the widespread public perception that the results of the run-off vote of November 21, 2004 between leading candidates Viktor Yushchenko and Viktor Yanukovych were rigged by the authorities in favor of the latter.[1] The nationwide protests succeeded when the results of the original run-off were annulled, and a revote was ordered by Ukraine's Supreme Court for December 26, 2004. Under intense scrutiny by domestic and international observers, the second run-off was declared to be "fair and free". The final results showed a clear victory for Yushchenko, who received about 52 percent of the vote, compared to Yanukovych's 44 percent. Yushchenko was declared the official winner and with his inauguration on January 23, 2005 in Kiev, the Orange Revolution peacefully reached its successful conclusion.

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[edit] Prelude

Two main candidates in the 2004 presidential election in Ukraine: Viktor Yushchenko, the main opposition candidate...
...and Viktor Yanukovych, on a 2004 campaign poster.

The 2004 presidential election in Ukraine featured two main candidates. One was sitting Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, largely supported by Leonid Kuchma (the outgoing President of Ukraine who already served two terms in the office and was precluded from running himself due to the constitutional term limits). The opposition candidate was Viktor Yushchenko, leader of the Our Ukraine faction in the Ukrainian parliament, also a former Prime Minister (1999–2001).

The election was held in a highly charged atmosphere, with the Yanukovych team and the outgoing president's administration using their control of the government and state apparatus for intimidation of Yushchenko and his supporters. In September 2004, Yushchenko suffered dioxin poisoning under mysterious circumstances. While he survived and returned to the campaign trail, the poisoning undermined his health and altered his appearance dramatically (his face remains disfigured by the consequences to this day).

The two main candidates were neck and neck in the first-round vote held on October 31, 2004, collecting 39.32% (Yanukovych) and 39.87% (Yushchenko) of the vote cast. The candidates that came third and fourth collected much less: Oleksandr Moroz of the Socialist Party of Ukraine and Petro Symonenko of the Communist Party of Ukraine received 5.82% and 4.97%, respectively. Since no candidate carried more than 50% of the cast ballots, a run-off vote between two leading candidates was mandated by Ukrainian law. Soon after the run-off was announced, Oleksandr Moroz threw his support behind Viktor Yushchenko. Another Ukrainian opposition leader, the charismatic populist Yulia Tymoshenko, chose not to run herself. Promised the position of Prime Minister if Yushchenko were to win the presidency,[2] Tymoshenko enthusiastically supported his presidential bid from the onset of the campaign.

In the wake of the first round of the election many complaints regarding voting irregularities in favor of the government supported Yanukovych were raised. However, as it was clear that neither nominee was close enough to collecting an outright majority in the first round, challenging the initial result would not have affected the final outcome of the election. As such the complaints were not actively pursued and both candidates concentrated on the upcoming run-off scheduled for November 21.

An orange ribbon, a symbol of the Ukrainian Orange Revolution. Ribbons are common symbols of non-violent protest.

Orange was originally adopted by the Yushchenko's camp as the signifying color of his election campaign. Later the color gave name to an entire series of political terms, such as the Oranges (Pomaranchevi in Ukrainian) for his political camp and supporters. At the time when the mass protests grew, and especially when they brought about political change in the country, the term Orange Revolution came to represent the entire series of events.

In view of the success of using color as a symbol to mobilize supporters, the Yanukovych camp chose blue for themselves.

[edit] The protests

Protests began on the eve of the second round of voting, as the official count differed markedly from exit poll results which gave Yushchenko up to an 11% lead, while official results gave the election win to Yanukovych by 3%. While Yanukovych supporters have claimed that Yushchenko's connections to the Ukrainian media explain this disparity, the Yushchenko team publicized evidence of many incidents of electoral fraud in favor of the government-backed Yanukovych, witnessed by many local and foreign observers. These accusations were reinforced by similar allegations, though at a lesser scale, during the first presidential run of October 31.[citation needed]

Protesters at Independence Square on the first day of the Orange Revolution.
Blue-clad miners rally in support of Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych in Kiev.

The Yushchenko campaign publicly called for protest on the dawn of election day, November 21, 2004, when allegations of fraud began to spread. Beginning on November 22, 2004, massive protests started in cities across Ukraine: the largest, in Kiev's Maidan Nezalezhnosti (Independence Square), attracted an estimated 500,000 participants,[3] who on November 23, 2004, peacefully marched in front of the headquarters of the Verkhovna Rada, the Ukrainian parliament, many wearing orange or carrying orange flags, the color of Yushchenko's campaign coalition.

The local councils in Kiev, Lviv,[4] and several other cities passed, with the wide popular support of their constituency, a largely symbolic refusal to accept the legitimacy of the official election results, and Yushchenko took a symbolic presidential oath.[5] This "oath" taken by Yushchenko in half-empty parliament chambers, lacking the quorum as only the Yushchenko-leaning factions were present, could not have any legal effect. But it was an important symbolic gesture meant to demonstrate the resolve of the Yushchenko campaign not to accept the compromised election results. In response, Yushchenko's opponents denounced him for taking an illegitimate oath, and even some of his moderate supporters were ambivalent about this act, while a more radical side of the Yushchenko camp demanded him to act even more decisively. Some observers argued that this symbolic presidential oath might have been useful to the Yushchenko camp should events have taken a more confrontational route.[citation needed] In such a scenario, this "presidential oath" Yushchenko took could be used to lend legitimacy to the claim that he, rather than his rival who tried to gain the presidency through alleged fraud, was a true commander-in-chief authorized to give orders to the military and security agencies.

At the same time, local officials in Eastern and Southern Ukraine, the stronghold of Viktor Yanukovych, started a series of actions alluding to the possibility of the breakup of Ukraine or an extra-constitutional federalization of the country, should their candidate's claimed victory not be recognized. Demonstrations of public support for Yanukovych were held throughout Eastern Ukraine and some of his supporters arrived in Kiev. However, in Kiev the pro-Yanukovych demonstrators were far outnumbered by Yushchenko supporters, whose ranks were continuously swelled by new arrivals from many regions of Ukraine. The scale of the demonstrations in Kiev was unprecedented. By many estimates, on some days they drew up to one million people to the streets, in freezing weather.[6]

[edit] Political developments


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Although Yushchenko entered into negotiations with outgoing President Leonid Kuchma in an effort to peacefully resolve the situation, the negotiations broke up on November 24, 2004. Yanukovych was officially certified as the victor by the Central Election Commission, which itself was allegedly involved in falsification of electoral results by withholding the information it was receiving from local districts and running a parallel illegal computer server to manipulate the results. The next morning after the certification took place, Yushchenko spoke to supporters in Kiev, urging them to begin a series of mass protests, general strikes and sit-ins with the intent of crippling the government and forcing it to concede defeat.

In view of the threat of illegitimate government acceding to power, Yushchenko's camp announced the creation of the Committee of National Salvation which declared a nationwide political strike.

On December 1, 2004, the Verkhovna Rada passed a resolution that strongly condemned pro-separatist and federalization actions, and passed a non-confidence vote in the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine, a decision Prime Minister Yanukovych refused to recognize. By the Constitution of Ukraine, the non-confidence vote mandated the government's resignation, but the parliament had no means to enforce a resignation without the co-operation of Prime Minister Yanukovych and outgoing President Kuchma.

On December 3, 2004, Ukraine's Supreme Court finally broke the political deadlock. The court decided that due to the scale of the electoral fraud it became impossible to establish the election results. Therefore, it invalidated the official results that would have given Yanukovych the presidency. As a resolution, the court ordered a revote of the run-off to be held on December 26, 2004.[7] This decision was seen as a victory for the Yushchenko camp while Yanukovych and his supporters favored a rerun of the entire election rather than just the run-off, as a second-best option if Yanukovych was not awarded the presidency. On December 8, 2004 the parliament amended laws to provide a legal framework for the new round of elections. The parliament also approved the changes to the Constitution, implementing a political reform backed by outgoing President Kuchma as a part of a political compromise between the acting authorities and opposition.

The December 26 revote was held under intense scrutiny of local and international observers. The preliminary results, announced by the Central Election Commission on December 28, gave Yushchenko and Yanukovych 51.99% and 44.20% of the total vote, respectively.[8] The Yanukovych team attempted to mount a fierce legal challenge to the election results using both the Ukrainian courts and the Election Commission complaint procedures. However, all their complaints were dismissed as without merit by both the Supreme Court of Ukraine and the Central Election Commission.[9] On January 10, 2005 the Election Commission officially declared Yushchenko as the winner of the presidential election[9] with the final results falling within 0.01% of the preliminary ones. This Election Commission announcement[10] cleared the way for Yushchenko's inauguration as the President of Ukraine. The official ceremony took place in the Verkhovna Rada building on January 23, 2005 and was followed by the "public inauguration" of the newly sworn President at Maidan Nezalezhnosti (Independence Square) in front of hundreds of thousands of his supporters.[11] This event brought the Ukrainian Orange Revolution to its peaceful conclusion.

[edit] Role of Ukrainian intelligence and security agencies

According to one version of events recounted by The New York Times,[12] Ukrainian security agencies played an unusual role in the Orange Revolution, with a KGB successor agency in the former Soviet state providing qualified support to the political opposition. As per the paper report, on November 28, 2004 over 10,000 MVS (Internal Ministry) troops were mobilized to put down the protests in Independence Square in Kiev by the order of their commander, Lt. Gen. Sergei Popkov. The SBU (Security Service of Ukraine, a successor to the KGB in Ukraine) warned opposition leaders of the crackdown. Oleksander Galaka, head of GRU (military intelligence) made calls to "prevent bloodshed". Col. Gen. Ihor Smeshko (SBU chief) and Maj. Gen. Vitaly Romanchenko (military counter-intelligence chief) both claimed to have warned Popkov to pull back his troops, which he did, preventing bloodshed.

In addition to the desire to avoid bloodshed, the New York Times article suggests that siloviki, as the security officers are often called in the countries of the former Soviet Union, were motivated by personal aversion to the possibility of having to serve president Yanukovych, who was in his youth convicted of robbery and assault and had alleged connection with corrupt businessmen, especially if he were to ascend to the presidency by fraud. The personal feelings of Gen. Smeshko towards Yanukovych may also have played a role. Additional evidence of Yushchenko's popularity and at least partial support among the SBU officers is shown by the fact that several embarrassing proofs of electoral fraud, including incriminating wiretap recordings of conversations among the Yanukovych campaign and government officials discussing how to rig the election, were provided to the Yushchenko camp.[13] These conversations were likely recorded and provided to the opposition by sympathizers in the Ukrainian Security Services.

[edit] Involvement of outside forces

Many analysts believe the Orange Revolution was built on a pattern first developed in the ousting of Slobodan Milošević in Serbia four years earlier, and continuing with the Rose Revolution in Georgia. Each of these victories, though apparently spontaneous, was the result of extensive grassroots campaigning and coalition-building among the opposition. Each included election victories followed up by public demonstrations, after attempts by the incumbent to hold onto power through electoral fraud.

Each of these social movements included extensive work by student activists. The most famous of these was Otpor, the youth movement that helped bring in Vojislav Koštunica. In Georgia the movement was called Kmara. In Ukraine the movement has worked under the succinct slogan Pora ("It's Time"). Chair of Georgian Parliamentary Committee on Defense and Security Givi Targamadze, former member of the Georgian Liberty Institute, as well as some members of Kmara, were consulted by Ukrainian opposition leaders on techniques of nonviolent struggle. Georgian rock bands Zumba, Soft Eject and Green Room, which earlier had supported the Rose Revolution, organized a solidarity concert in central Kiev to support Yushchenko’s cause in November 2004.[14]

Activists in each of these movements were funded and trained in tactics of political organization and nonviolent resistance by a coalition of Western pollsters and professional consultants funded by a range of Western government and non-government agencies. According to The Guardian, these include the U.S. State Department and USAID along with the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, the International Republican Institute, the Bilderberg Group, the NGO Freedom House and George Soros's Open Society Institute. The National Endowment for Democracy, a foundation supported by the U.S. government, has supported non-governmental democracy-building efforts in Ukraine since 1988.[15] Writings on nonviolent struggle by Gene Sharp formed the strategic basis of the student campaigns.

Former president Leonid Kravchuk accused Russian oligarch, Boris Berezovsky, of financing Yushchenko's campaign, and provided copies of documents showing money transfers from companies he said are controlled by Berezovsky to companies controlled by Yuschenko's official backers. Berezovsky has confirmed that he met Yushchenko's representatives in London before the election, and that the money was transferred from his companies, but he refused to confirm or deny that the companies that received the money were used in Yushchenko's campaign. Financing of election campaigns by foreign citizens is illegal in Ukraine.[16] According to BBC's The Russian Godfathers[17], Berezovsky poured millions of dollars into sustaining the spontaneous demonstrations and was in daily contact with the key opposition leaders.

On the other hand, Russia's involvement in the election was more direct and heavily on the side of Prime Minister Yanukovych. The extent of this involvement is still contested but some facts are indisputable such as multiple meetings between Russian president Vladimir Putin, Kuchma and Yanukovych before and during the elections. Putin repeatedly congratulated Yanukovych while the results were still contested, which was soon to embarrass both parties. Yanukovych received a much more preferential treatment in Russian media, and was surrounded by Russian consultants known to be close to the Kremlin throughout the election cycle.

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  1. ^ Paul Quinn-Judge, Yuri Zarakhovich, The Orange Revolution, Time, November 28, 2004
  2. ^ Мустафа Найем, "С Президентом на «вы»", Фокус, April 2, 2007, №13
  3. ^ Veronica Khokhlova, New Kids On the Bloc, The New York Times, November 26, 2004
  4. ^ Kamil Tchorek, Protest grows in western city, The Times, November 26, 2004
  5. ^ Yushchenko takes reins in Ukraine. BBC NEWS. 23 January 2005. URL accessed: 17 November 2006
  6. ^ USAID Report Democracy Rising (PDF)
  7. ^ Supreme Court of Ukraine decision regarding the annulment of November 21st vote. Full text in Ukrainian and Summary in English
  8. ^ "Results of Voting in Ukraine Presidential Elections 2004", Central Election Commission of Ukraine. URL Accessed 12 September 2006
  9. ^ a b "Timeline: Battle for Ukraine". BBC NEWS, 23 January 2005. URL Accessed: 12 September 2006
  10. ^ Official CEC announcement of results as of 10 January 2005, Central Election Commission. URL Accessed: 12 September 2006 (Ukrainian)
  11. ^ Finn, Peter. "In a Final Triumph, Ukrainian Sworn In". Washington Post, 24 January 2005. URL Accessed: 12 September 2006
  12. ^ C. J. Chivers, BACK CHANNELS: A Crackdown Averted; How Top Spies in Ukraine Changed the Nation's Path, The New York Times, January 17, 2005>.
  13. ^ How Yanukovych Forged the Elections. Headquarters’ Telephone Talks Intercepted, Ukrainska Pravda, November 24, 2004.
  14. ^ States in Caucasus, Central Asia closely monitor developments in Ukraine. Eurasia Insight. November 30, 2004.
  15. ^ Diuk, Nadia. "In Ukraine, Homegrown Freedom." Washington Post, 4 December 2004. URL Accessed: 12 September 2006
  16. ^ Lenta.Ru: Пан Березовский вершит историю Украины
  17. ^ The Russian Godfathers, episode 1 part 2 BBC Retrieved on April 10, 2008

[edit] External links

[edit] Books

(8.5" x 11")The Orange Revolution in Ukraine - a Step to Freedom (2nd ed ed.). 2007. p. 48. 

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