Failing to wait for the fat lady to sing? Ukrainian elections

There have been some rather presumptuous remarks about the Ukrainian elections by people who should probably know better.

Firstly, the ICES observers have already stated that thus far, the Ukrainian election campaigns have been acceptable and generally meet the standards necessary - whilst at the same time stating those in Georgia have already failed to meet the necessary standards.

Furthermore, to state “the elections should not be declared rigged in advance, and it was incorrect to act according to the principle “if I don’t win, the elections are invalid”, would appear to be a direct metaphorical slap directed at Ms Tymoshenko who has already declared the elections “rigged” and “stolen” - albeit she no doubt is trying to mitigate the current opinion polls.  For lovers of irony, it won’t escape them that ICES was invited to monitor the Ukrainian elections by her party, and yet it is she they have taken a thinly veiled public swipe at.

With both elections still to take place, possibly a little premature to make such comments, even if they are genuinely the observations they have thus far?

Is it even ethical to make such comments as “observers” before an election has taken place?  In making statements prior to the election, is that not crossing the line of being an “observer” and in some way managing to influence or actively change an on-going process defying the broadly accepted definition of “observe”?

Then there is Pawel Zalewski MEP who also expects the EU to recognise the Ukrainian elections as “free and fair” - but goes on to say when that happens, it won’t fundamentally change the differences between Ukraine and the EU or improve the relationship.  Quite probably true - but again a little presumptuous with 5 weeks to go before the elections?

On the upside, if they are deemed “free and fair”, it will at least add international legitimacy to the next parliament and any subsequent work it does, regardless of its eventual make-up - despite the fact that neither Party of Regions nor the United Opposition have any political ideology aside that of securing power, protecting what they have “acquired” over their political and business lifetimes, and hopefully grabbing a little more from the trough if they win - and at the moment it looks as though Party of Regions will win and continue their time at the trough.

That, quite simply, is the most fundamental and the driving ideology of both major political forces in Ukraine - a fact not lost on Ukrainians nor the neighbours of Ukraine.  The arbiter/rental society system of governance is alive and well in the ideology of both major Ukrainian political parties, no matter what they may profess to the contrary.

However, it has to be said that the EU’s EaP will probably be in desperate need of somebody having “free and fair” elections if it is to retain any credibility as an effective policy at governmental level in the immediate future.  Basket-case Belarus has already held its electoral farce - and failed miserably last week as far as EU sensibilities go.  EU influence on Belarus prima facie comes to a total sum of zero when it comes to rule of law, democracy, human rights and media freedoms etc.

If what has been said by the ICES observers relating to Georgia is correct, then it too will not be seen as “free and fair” by the international community.

That leaves Ukraine, this year at least, to be the EaP nation that manages to hold “free and fair” elections.  More importantly so as nations like Azerbaijan awash with oil money can no longer be swayed by EU handouts or beaten to any degree of real hurt by EU sticks.

Solace cannot really be found in the EaP nation of Moldova given the on-going frozen conflict and the fact that, quite simply, Moldavian EU integration costs only Euro 700 per person anyway on an individual basis if you know the right people- regardless of road maps and action plans.

So the EU needs an EaP success story, whether in the sphere of rule of law, democracy, media or human rights for 2012 - and that success story, judging by the comments of Mr Zalewski MEP and the ICES observers would seem to be the deeming of the Ukrainian elections “free and fair” - something that will be emphasied out of proportion as a positive given the concerns raised over the local elections not that long ago, no doubt.

After the elections are over, it remains to be seen whether EU/Ukraine relations improve - or not.  I suspect they will get worse before they get better.  What passes through the RADA in the aftermath of the elections may not be as EU orientated as it would like.

The answer, or at least part of the answer, will no doubt come from the European Council (EU foreign ministers) meeting on 14th November.  I say part of the answer as quite clearly the EU doesn’t really have a plan for Ukraine upon which all member states agree.  A little like Turkey, Ukraine sits in a kind of twilight zone when it comes to what the EU wants to do with its neighbour.