Monday, December 27, 2004

A tale of two elections

Viktor Yushchenko has won the Ukranian re-election. As for what this means, I'll leave it to Yushchenko himself:

"I want to say this is a victory of the Ukrainian people, the Ukrainian nation," he declared. "We were independent for 14 years, today we became free.

"Today, in Ukraine, a new political year has begun. This is the beginning of a new epoch, the beginning of a new great democracy."

(My emphasis)

Standing up for real democracy has hopefully laid a good groundwork for that project. I wish them luck for the rest of the journey.

Meanwhile, in Uzbekistan, it's business as usual. They had an "election", in which no opposition parties were allowed to run. Not formally, you understand, but their applications were all mysteriously found wanting on technical grounds. As a result, Uzbeks faced an electoral choice which was no choice at all - exactly like Iraqis under Saddam.

Uzbekistan is a vital ally of the US in the "war on terror", so criticism of this fraud has been muted. I do not expect to see Colin Powell standing up to say that the election was a lie, that the Uzbekistani government is illegitimate and threatening "consequences for our relationship" unless there are real and transparent elections. The US gets everything out it wants out of the present regime (including possibly a little torture by proxy) and sees no real reason for change. After all, if boiling people alive isn't a deal-breaker, then a little fixed election certainly isn't. And besides, they have a good excuse: all this manipulation is justified by the necessity of keeping Islamic candidates out of office.

Everything said about Ukraine is equally applicable to Uzbekistan. Uzbeks too deserve free, fair and transparent elections - regardless of their religion. The world - and the US - should stand up for that, just as we did for Ukraine. Otherwise, we are not on the side of democracy, but of tyranny and realpolitik.