Sunday, November 28, 2004


The disputed election in the Ukraine is now in the hands of the courts, though their Parliament has called for another election. What's frightening is that members of the police are choosing sides - and the army are doing likewise. When those responsible for enforcing the state's authority start doing that, it is a recipe for trouble.

At the same time, the Guardian has a pair of articles to warn us of the biases in international media coverage and that those currently denouncing the election for failing to meet international standards are not uninterested in the outcome and have hardly been consistent:

Countless elections in the post-Soviet space have been manipulated to a degree which probably reversed the result, usually by unfair use of state television, and sometimes by direct ballot rigging. Boris Yeltsin's constitutional referendum in Russia in 1993 and his re-election in 1996 were early cases. Azerbaijan's presidential vote last year was also highly suspicious.

Yet after none of those polls did the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the main international observer body, or the US and other western governments, make the furious noise they are producing today. The decision to protest appears to depend mainly on realpolitik and whether the challengers or the incumbent are considered more "pro-western" or "pro-market".

But the lesson to take from this is not that we are wrong to protest electoral fraud in this case, but that we are wrong to remain silent in others. It is a call for us to urge greater consistency on our rulers, so that they actually stand up for our beliefs rather than using them as a front for self-interest and realpolitik. If we truly believe in democracy, we must insist on free and fair elections everywhere - not just where it suits us.