Tuesday, November 23, 2004


One year ago today, on November 23, Georgian President Edward Shevardnadze resigned from office in the face of massive public demonstrations, international pressure, and high-level defections following his wholesale rigging of the parliamentary elections two weeks prior.

After Georgia's Rose Revolution, Putin sagely noted that leaders all around the CIS were "shitting in their pants." And just as they feared, the memory of Georgia's success looms large in the minds of the Ukrainians out on Independence Square. Just as Serbia's success in ousting Milosevic inspired the movements in Georgia, and just as Serbia's movements were animated by Slovakia, and on and on. Yuschenko raises a rose in the air, and Georgian flags have been popping up in the gathered crowd, and I can only imagine that it buttresses resolve and steels nerves. There are 200,000+ rallying in Kiev now. The Georgians did it a year ago today.

But it's still just too early to tell where this will go. A key factor in Georgia's success was Russia's relative neutrality. No fans of Saakashvili were they, but it wasn't worth making a fuss over, once the writing was on the wall. Ukraine is a different matter altogether, and far more central to Russia's regional economic and security interests. Don't look for them to score any international diplomacy points by helping the government reconcile with the opposition. We've also yet to see where the security services loyalties lie, if it comes to that. And there's just the size problem. Ukraine is so big, it's much more divided, and it may just be harder to reach that critical mass necessary to tip the scale.

Today, there was meant to be a extraordinary session of the parliament to rule on a no-confidence vote in the Central Election Commission, but quorum was not met. The elections have been roundly condemned by various international voices: the EU, the OSCE, the U.S. State Department...and Pres. Bush sent a pre-election letter to Kuchma warning that a poor election would have serious ramifications for Ukraine's future relationship with the U.S.

Momentum will be key to whether or not the opposition can stick it out, and so we'll need to watch closely and see who folds and who doesn't. Lviv, Kyiv, Ivanovo-Frankivsk are among the cities whose councils have declared that they only recognize Yuschenko as President. Both sides are digging in, not backing down.


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