Ukraine’s most decisive election took place last Sunday, and the peoples’ verdict was very clear: set course towards the West!
As the world’s political agenda has lately been shaken by the political and military crises in Ukraine, the Ukrainians voted in Sunday’s election overwhelmingly for socioeconomic reforms, further democratization and pro-Western foreign policies that political parties have promised.
“What we are witnessing in Ukraine is the second round of the Soviet Union’s collapse. We were wrong to believe that the USSR doesn’t exist anymore. It doesn’t exist formally, but the overall structure of the Soviet Union and its culture are still very much alive. And for the last 14 years, Vladimir Putin has been trying to re-build that all. However, the Ukrainian popular revolution, Euromaidan, has successfully rejected Putin’s attempts to build a new political East!” – said Rasa Juknevičienė, Head of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly delegation and Deputy-Leader of the Lithuanian Conservative Party.
Indeed, the newly elected Rada, Parliament of Ukraine, is a unique kind of national assembly the country has never seen before. Since the Great October Revolution in 1917, this is the first parliament where the Communist Party is not represented, at the time when new centre-right political forces and representatives of the civil society have been elected. The election has now also dismissed Russia’s well-known accusation that Ukraine is dominated by fascists and nazi, as the radical and far-right parties had not even achieved 5% threshold.
”This parliamentary election in Ukraine was indeed organised in accordance with the democratic standards, respecting basic civil and human rights. This election gave the Ukrainian nation a real chance to choose and elect. I hope this will be a good foundation for the country’s continuing democratic and economic development which will not happen unless the government in Kyiv really tackles the widespread corruption across the country” – said Christian Holm, Swedish Member of Parliament (Moderate Party) and Member of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly Delegation.
As a consequence of Russia unlawfully annexing Crimea and supporting the pro-Russian terrorist groups in Eastern Ukraine, nearly 5 million Ukrainian citizens were not able to practise their constitutional right and participate in the election process. Despite this, Ukraine’s new parliament is now the country’s least pro-Russian parliament ever. It will have to deal with a number of insurmountable difficulties – Russian-backed separatists, deepening financial crisis and widespread corruption amongst others.
“Corruption is like cancer that has been eating Ukraine up. The Soviet mentality has been rooted in the minds of many Ukrainians, not only oligarchs – this problem should be seen on a broader scale. The Soviet approach – if you can steal from the state, you do it – could and can still be visible in other post-USSR states. However, the anti-corruption debate has never been as relevant and widespread as before this election. The very fact that now the issue of corruption has been broadly discussed as a problem the people will not tolerate is a good starting point” – Mrs Juknevičienė noted recalling early 1990s in Lithuania.
“The Ukrainians clearly supported pro-European parties and candidates, who now have a heavy responsibility to lead the country in the right direction. That foresees policies for whole Ukraine to finally put an end to the violence in Eastern parts of the country, as well as Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea and the Russian involvement in Ukraine’s East. Putin and the Russian Federation are undoubtedly still a decisive factor in resolving the conflict” – added Mr Holm.
Putin may have been using every political, military and economic instrument to keep Ukraine, but ultimately he had achieved a result he so desperately wanted to avoid – the uncompromising and irreversible change in the mood of the Ukrainians towards the West. The incredible shift of interest can be seen in the latest poll by the International Republican Institute.
According to the IRI September poll, 59% preferred Ukraine joining the European Union, whilst just 17% were in favour of the Customs union of Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan. Last year, the figures were 42% and 37%, respectively. In addition to that, the support of NATO has substantially increased in Ukraine. In case of a referendum on NATO membership 44% would have voted for, 35% against, while 22% were undecided. It is worth noting, that between 2002 and 2009, less than 25 % of Ukrainians supported NATO membership.
Ukraine has now a long path of painful but necessary reforms to build a successful society. However, this parliamentary election has been a true triumph of democracy, and Ukrainians deserve respect for organising a free and transparent election in current circumstances. And the international community should not turn its back on a nation that has for the last year so uncompromisingly been standing up for freedom and democracy.