Category Archives: politics

What does Wikileaks know about the Orange Revolution?

image As WikiLeaks begins releasing over 250,000 U.S. diplomatic cables this week, out of the 2,000 that originated out of Canada there’s at least one in the pile that deals with the ‘Canadian Ukrainian Community’ concerning the Orange Revolution:

Date: December 07, 2004

Source: Embassy Ottawa

Address: 490 Sussex Drive Ottawa, K1P 5T1

Tags: PGOV, PREL, PHUM, UP, CA, Canadian Ukrainian Community, Elections

No idea what the cable contains, but as the full data set gets released this week it will be very interesting to see what it’s about.

Ukraine’s local elections ‘did not meet standards for openness and fairness’ – US Dept. of State

The US Department of State today slammed Ukraine’s local elections that were held last Sunday for being less free and open than in previous elections and the quality of these elections had regressed:

Preliminary reports from election monitors suggest that Ukraine’s October 31 local elections did not meet standards for openness and fairness set by the presidential elections earlier this year. Domestic and international election observation efforts, most notably those led by the widely-respected domestic, non-partisan monitor OPORA, reported numerous procedural violations on election day. While election observers recognized improvements in the accuracy of voters lists since the presidential contest, they also noted shortcomings, such as insufficient training for electoral commission members, which contributed to the procedural violations and to organizational problems.

Ukraine’s local election law, passed in July, was cited as a source of problems on election day by election observers and international experts. Some difficulties precipitated by the new law, such as blocking the participation of new parties, were lessened or ended by the revisions ordered by President Yanukovych in September. However, other aspects of the law and of pre-election regulations and procedures challenged the placement of the names of some candidates on ballots, allowed for reported cases of improper use of administrative resources during the electoral campaign, established unbalanced electoral commission membership, and created complicated registration and voting procedures.

President Yanukovych has recognized the need to bring electoral legislation into line with international standards through a consultative process. The United States is prepared to assist Ukraine in support of electoral code reform.

Anna German, Yanukovych’s spokeswoman, rejected the criticism:

‘The definition of democracy is not set in stone,’ she said. Democracy in every country has its own peculiarities, and in Ukraine as well…And we in Ukraine can also draw conclusions from US elections.’

Read the rest of the article

The Financial Times provided more analysis:

The weekend election was the first since Mr Yanukovich took over as president and is seen as a test of his democratic credentials.

The hard-hitting comments indicate that Mr Yanukovich is seen as failing to fully uphold his promise to preserve democratic gains made since the 2004 Orange Revolution. Back then, a vote rigged in his favour was overturned amid massive pro-democracy protests.

A spokesperson for Catherine Ashton, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, said she was concerned about reports of irregularities during the elections – particularly since Ukraine had been building a record for polls that met international standards.

“They undermine public confidence in the electoral process and in the further consolidation of democracy in Ukraine,” the spokesperson said.

On Tuesday, the US-based National Democratic Institute, one of the financers of the Kiev-based OPORA, issued a strongly worded statement, saying: “The environment surrounding Ukraine’s October 31 local elections has deteriorated compared to the situation during the presidential election earlier this year”.

On Monday, Mykola Azarov, Ukraine’s prime minister and an ally of Mr Yanukovich, insisted the elections were “democratic”.

In a television address to the nation on Tuesday, Mr Yanukovich called upon the country to proceed with everyday life, saying: “The local election in Ukraine is over.” But he conceded that problems existed with the vote, saying: “I recognise that the elections had technical flaws and were complex.”

Attention will now fall on the assessment given by European Union leaders. Lady Ashton will closely follow the completion of the electoral process, including the way votes are tabulated and the response to complaints and appeals, her spokesperson said.

The EU has tried to emphasise the importance of democratic reforms and the rule of law as it develops a relationship with Mr Yanukovich.

Since taking over as president, Mr Yanukovich has pledged to uphold democracy and improve relations with Russia while keeping Ukraine on a path towards EU integration. But the opposition and pro-democracy activists accuse him of cracking down on democracy and press freedom.

As during the Orange Revolution, when Moscow backed Mr Yanukovich’s candidacy, Russian observers have dubbed the vote as fair.

Largely controlled by oligarchs backing Mr Yanukovich, Ukraine’s main television channels and news agencies were seen to be citing observers that backed up Mr Yanukovich’s claim that the vote was democratic.

The findings of OPORA were largely kept off the airwaves, feeding criticism that Mr Yanukovich is attempting to copy the success of Russia’s Vladimir Putin in setting up a “managed democracy”.

Read the rest of the article

Not a good sign at all, is the US & Europe coming in a little too late after giving such a free pass in the Presidential elections?

Harper meets Yanukovych in Ukraine: Asks about Holodomor & human rights

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper who flew into Kyiv today to meet with Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, and impressively asked tough questions regarding the Holodomor genocide and the pro-Russian regime’s crackdown on human rights:

Harper also focused on human rights issues during the meeting and made clear reference to an estimated 10 million deaths at the hands of Josef Stalin, The Canadian Press reports.

Yanukovych has been reluctant to recognize the genocide.

Human rights abuses seem to be a priority for Harper during his visit to Ukraine. He appeared emotional earlier in the day while visiting an outdoor site marking the genocide, and was scheduled to meet with those who have allegedly faced state intimidation due to their political views.

He also laid a symbolic jar of grain at a monument in honour of those who died in the 1932-1933 famine and is meeting with the leader of Ukraine’s opposition.

Yanukovych has faced accusations of attempting to control national media and using police to crack down on historians, academics and students.

Canada considers the event, known as Holodomor, to be a genocide. But Yanukovych chose his words carefully, instead referring to it as a "horrible event in the history of the Ukrainian people and in the history of our neighbouring peoples."

Later in the day, after meeting with opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko, Harper once again drove home his point.

"Our presence here and our meeting symbolizes the importance of democracy," he said, before going on to meetings with those who have allegedly faced state intimidation due to their political views.

Read the rest of the article

But the trip wasn’t all about righting Ukraine’s recent wrongs:

During the discussions Monday, the two leaders signed a memorandum of understanding that would allow Canadian and Ukrainian citizens between 18 and 35 to travel and work for up to one year in each other’s countries.

"Our two countries have strong ties underpinned by the more than 1.2 million Ukrainian descendants living in Canada today," Harper said in a release.

"Today’s agreement will create exciting work and travel opportunities for our youth, forging new bonds between our countries for generations to come."

A very impressive showing by our Canadian PM. You can watch some video of it here

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper to arrive in Ukraine on Monday

Update: Harper arrived Monday and asked Yanukovych some serious questions! 

The Canadian government has announced that Prime Minister Stephen Harper will travel to Ukraine from October 25 to 26:

The Prime Minister will also travel to Ukraine at the invitation of President Viktor Yanukovych.  “I look forward to my meetings with President Yanukovych and others, and to gaining a better understanding of Ukraine, the ancestral homeland of so many Canadians, with its unique society and culture.”

But the UCC warns that Ukraine has strayed from many democratic goals since President Yanukovych took over:

"Recent steps taken by Ukraine’s political leadership have seriously undermined the country’s constitution, its democratic institutions, the protection of its historical memory and national identity, sovereignty and territorial integrity. A continued deterioration of human and political rights in Ukraine, the weakening of its national sovereignty will have serious implications in the region and beyond. Any relations between Canada and Ukraine must be founded on the principles contained in the bilateral agreement signed in September 2009 "Priorities for Canada-Ukraine Relations – Road Map" including the provisions on democracy, human rights and the protection of Ukraine’s political sovereignty and territorial integrity. Canada’s leadership is critical in ensuring peace, prosperity, and that Ukraine will be able to pursue a fully independent, democratic and dignified existence," stated Grod.

"In the current context, with signs that Ukraine’s language, history, and national identity are being threatened amid media reports indicating that the rule of law and democratic freedoms such as freedom of the press, assembly and speech are being stifled, it is important that these issues be raised at the most senior levels," stated Grod. "Canada has an opportunity to take a leadership position in response to this situation. Canada is widely respected in Ukraine as a model for democratic values and as a civil society, for its economic and social development, and its long-term support for Ukraine."

The last PM to visit Ukraine was Jean Chretien in 1999 and the latest representative was Michaelle Jean, Governor General of Canada.

Ukrainian Canadian politician Vera Danyluk passes away

MONTREAL – She was a small-town mayor who reached the top of local municipal politics but never seemed overawed by any of it. She contemplated the idea of entering provincial politics, but decided against it after her husband worried the National Assembly in Quebec City would too often keep her away from their home in Town of Mount Royal.

Vera Danyluk, mother, community volunteer, mayor and former head of the Montreal Urban Community, died yesterday at the Montreal General Hospital after a battle with an illness described by city officials as "a very rare disorder."

Danyluk, 66, was surrounded by family in her hospital room when she died.

Trent said Danyluk "was an extremely important role model for women," referring to her assuming the reins of the MUC at a time when women in politics were a rarity.

"She showed that if you’re going to be in municipal politics, you can do it with probity, with a sense of ethics, a sense of responsibility and you can work very hard.

"She almost single-handedly helped to raise the public opinion of municipal politicians in the Montreal area."

In a communique made public in the hours after her death, Montreal Mayor Gérald Tremblay, on his way to Rome to attend the canonization of Brother André, described Danyluk as "an exceptionally talented woman who was a great source of inspiration for all those who made a choice to enter municipal politics. We’ve lost an exceptional woman who dedicated her life to public service."

Danyluk was a critic of forced municipal mergers carried out at the start of the decade, but her support of decentralization wasn’t limited to municipal administration. In the 1970s, not yet involved in politics, she co-founded the Women’s Committee on Public Safety after the attempted rape of an adolescent girl in T.M.R. That group called for a demerger of the Montreal Urban Community’s island-wide police, placing public security back in the hands of municipalities.

Elected chairperson of the Suburban Mayors’ Conference of Montreal in 1992, two years later she experienced what might be considered the greatest irony of her political career: After spending more than a decade criticizing the MUC, Danyluk, then 49, was named its chairperson, responsible for a budget of $1.2 billion and the 15,000 employees who provided the region’s public security and transit, restaurant and food inspection, water purification, air pollution monitoring and emergency co-ordination services.

Montreal Gazette [thanks Ukemonde]