Ukraine’s Democracy in Danger: Viktor Yanukovych’s misrule is courting a second ‘Orange Revolution.’ [Article]

A political science professor from Rutgers University writes in today’s Wall Street Journal about the grim future ahead for Ukraine with Yanukovych as President:

Mr. Yanukovych has committed a series of mistakes that could doom his presidency, scare off foreign investors, and thwart the country’s modernization.

Mr. Yanukovych’s first mistake was to violate the constitution by changing the rules according to which ruling parliamentary coalitions are formed, making it possible for his party to take the lead in partnership with several others, including the Communists.

His second mistake was to appoint as prime minister his crony Mykola Azarov, a tough bureaucrat whose name is synonymous with government corruption, ruinous taxation rates, and hostility to small business

(About a larger cabinet) That the cabinet contained not one woman—Mr. Azarov claimed that reform was not women’s work—only reinforced the image of the cabinet as a dysfunctional boys’ club.

His fourth mistake was to appoint two nonentities… to head the ministries of economy and finance… The size of the committee guarantees that it will be a talk shop, while the incompetence of the two ministers means that whatever genuinely positive ideas the Committee develops will remain on paper.

His fifth mistake was to appoint the controversial Dmytro Tabachnik as minister of education. Mr. Tabachnik has expressed chauvinist views that democratically inclined Ukrainians regard as deeply offensive to their national dignity, such as the belief that west Ukrainians are not real Ukrainians; endorsing the sanitized view of Soviet history propagated by the Kremlin; and claiming that Ukrainian language and culture flourished in Soviet times. Unsurprisingly, many Ukrainians have reacted in the same way that African Americans would react to KKK head David Duke’s appointment to such a position—with countrywide student strikes, petitions, and demonstrations directed as much at Mr. Yanukovych as at Mr. Tabachnik.

Several other key dismissals and appointments have only reinforced this view. The director of the Security Service archives—a conscientious scholar who permitted unrestricted public access to documentation revealing Soviet crimes—has been fired. The National Television and Radio Company has been placed in the hands of a lightweight entertainer expected to toe the line. Most disturbing perhaps, several of Mr. Yanukovych’s anti-democratically inclined party allies have been placed in charge of provincial ministries of internal affairs—positions that give them broad scope to clamp down on the liberties of ordinary citizens.

Indeed, if Mr. Yanukovych keeps on making anti-democratic mistakes, he could very well provoke a second Orange Revolution. But this time the demonstrators would consist of democrats, students, and workers. The prospect of growing instability will do little to attract foreign investors, while declining legitimacy, growing incompetence, and tub thumping will fail to modernize Ukraine’s industry, agriculture, and education. Mr. Yanukovych could very well be an even greater failure as president than Mr. Yushchenko.

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A very grim future indeed if Yanukovych continues down this path. Lots of events are transpiring in the country as a result of this new power shift:

Ukraine’s new governing coalition in parliament says it will pass a law preventing the country from joining any military alliances, including NATO…Russia, keen to restore its Soviet-era influence over Ukraine and other former Soviet states, is fiercely averse to NATO’s eastward expansion. [Associated Press]

Russian nationalists in Crimea have burned Ukrainian history textbooks to protest what they say are distortions of the past by the administration of former President Viktor Yushchenko.  The recent transfer of power in Kyiv has raised hope among Russian nationalists and fear among Ukrainians.

Among the participants was Sevastopol city councilman Yevgeniy Dubovik, a member of the pro-Russian and far left Progressive Socialist Party of Ukraine.  He agrees with the warning of 19th century German writer Heinrich Heine who wrote, “Where they burn books, they will in the end burn people.”

Nonetheless, Dubovik told VOA that Monday’s burning of Ukrainian history books was justified. [Voice of America]

President Viktor Yanukovych has said he supports a project on the construction of the Kerch (Crimea, southern Ukraine) – Caucasus (Russia) bridge, the head of state said Thursday when visiting the Autonomous Republic of Crimea [BSANNA News]

Meanwhile, many Ukrainians, particularly in the western part of the country, fear controversial new Education Minister Dmytro Tabachnyk will promote pro-Russian policies.  Tabachnyk has raised eyebrows with statements that suggest western and eastern Ukraine should be separated, or should never have been united in the first place.

In a protest against him on Monday in the city of Lviv, Ukraine’s Congress of Young Nationalists collected old Soviet history books to turn them into pulp. [Voice of America]

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