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Ukraine presidential elections provoke protests
AS THE socialist goes to our printers, a mass opposition movement is developing in the Ukraine following last Sunday's Presidential election. Former prime minister Viktor Yushchenko, who claims to have been cheated of victory, has called his supporters to gather outside the parliament building in Kiev and to launch a campaign of civil disobedience.
Officials in several Ukrainian cities have refused to accept the election result which gave prime minister Viktor Yanukovych a 49.4% vote to Yuschenko's 46.7%.
With echoes of the Cold War, the US official observer and European Union ministers have called the result a fraud, while Russia's president Vladimir Putin wasted no time in congratulating Yanukovych on his "victory".
Both candidates have pursued capitalist policies of privatisation etc (the socialist has recently supported workers at the Galol plant in western Ukraine whose factory is being asset stripped through privatisation). But Yuschenko is pro-Washington and EU, while Yanukovych favours closer ties with Russia. Yanukovych's campaign relied heavily upon the Russian speaking population of eastern Ukraine for support, promising them dual nationality.
Yuschenko is no doubt hoping that the mass protests will secure him the presidency, similar to the events in the former Soviet republic of Georgia last November. Then, protests in the capital Tbilisi followed the falsifying of ballot results by the regime of Edouard Sheverdnadze. And although the police, army and riot squads were mobilised they held back from attacking the crowds. The opposition bloc led by Mikhail Saakashvili rode into power on the back of weeks of mass protests.
Also, in October 2000, a mass movement of up to one million people converged on Belgrade demanding an end to the Milosevic regime, storming the national parliament and taking over the main government TV station. This too was triggered by blatant government rigging in the presidential election.
It is not clear at this stage how the opposition movement will develop. But whoever succeeds in taking the reins of power in the Ukraine, the working class can expect more attacks on their living standards and rights. Workers must raise an independent mass party with socialist policies, and struggle to overthrow the corrupt capitalist politicians and their rotten system.
More next week
In The Socialist 27 November 2004:
Socialist Party workplace news
Socialist Party campaigns