Symptomatic processes are now underway in Ukraine in connection with a real possibility of signing the Association Agreement in Vilnius. They still await a special expert analysis, but it is clear today that the government’s firm stand on European integration causes many to revise their attitude to the president. Although the Party of Region’s program sets out a course towards Europe, this party has always been considered a pro-Russian political force, especially after it signed the Kharkiv Accords. But now that the party has begun to really follow this course, what we see is at least reconsideration of Viktor Yanukovych’s role as president. Naturally, the results will be evident after the summit.
The proof of this is a letter to the editorial office from our regular reader Vitalii Bazhan in Chernihiv.
“Maybe, we should support the president?
“Of course, I am no match for well-known politicians and political scientists, but I will tell you what I do not hear, for some reason, from them.
“Yanukovych has radically changed his views on Ukraine’s course and forced most of his government and party members to do the same. This may even seem strange and incredible, but:
“Should Yanukovych sign the EU Association Agreement and put the government, politics, and the economy on a new path of development, he will go down in history as a fighter for Ukraine’s independence, who stands well above Ivan Mazepa and Bohdan Khmelnytsky.
“I would like everybody to hear this. I have never supported Yanukovych before, but something has happened to him…”
This letter is a vivid illustration of radical changes in Ukrainian society: a critic of the president turns into his supporter, for he is aware of the importance of Euro-integration for this country. This idea rallies the government, the opposition, and society together today. However, some parties are still playing political games – for example, the opposition chose not to vote the other day for changes to the Constitution that will guarantee greater independence of judges. The overtly pro-Russian forces are also on the rise. But the latter are drawing lukewarm support from voters.
Signing the Association Agreement is only the beginning of more serious work and a chance for society, politicians, and the president to change. We have already gone down a love-to-hate path – from the Orange Revolution to the finale of Viktor Yushchenko’s presidency. Is there a reverse path?
“A CONSIDERABLE PART OF PEOPLE ARE TAKING A MORE CONSTRUCTIVE ATTITUDE TO YANUKOVYCH”
Volodymyr FESENKO, political scientist:
“Undoubtedly, integration into Europe will have or, to be more exact, has already had a positive effect on President Yanukovych because he has neutralized, to a large extent, the ideologically- and propagandistically-minded opposition. One of the oppositionists’ trump cards in the struggle against Yanukovych – the EU integration issue and accusations of being pro-Russian – is no longer working. Besides, a considerable part of the people, who did not support or took a critical approach to Yanukovych, are taking a milder and more constructive attitude to him.
“Clearly, I do not mean that these people have become his supporters, but their attitude to Yanukovych is not so tough now. For national democratically-minded people can see that Yanukovych is not giving in to Putin’s pressure and still intends to sign the agreement with the European Union. I think the Party of Regions would have hardly voted like this in parliament had it not been for Yanukovych’s stand.
“All the aforesaid, of course, improves the attitude to Yanukovych, and I do not rule out that this may raise Yanukovych’s rating by several percentage points at the expense of the voters who have no steadfast political persuasions. For the absolute majority of those who favor Svoboda, Klitschko’s party, and Batkivshchyna, as well as the most ardent fans of Yulia Tymoshenko, are unlikely to support Yanukovych. In other words, there can be some change of heart, but only among those voters who do not take a firm stand. I mean the people who support integration into Europe but have not yet finally decided for whom to vote in the presidential elections.
“Therefore, it is quite probable that some of these people will vote for Yanukovych. This is possible, but the aspiration for Europe may bring about not only the abovementioned benefits, but also a problem for Yanukovych – he may lose a part of his permanent voters in eastern and southern Ukraine among those who like and favor an alliance with Russia. In a word, this means not only benefits, but also additional risks.
“I will also say in conclusion that, by all accounts, Yanukovych is bound to try to moderate relations and restore a friendly partnership with Russia. Incidentally, not only he personally needs this shortly before the presidential elections – it is also in the interests of Ukraine as a whole because it is important for us to have both European Union and Customs Union member states as our economic partners.”
“WESTERN UKRAINE IS UNABLE TO REAPPRAISE THE FIGURE OF THE PRESIDENT”
Ostap DROZDOV, author and presenter of the political program “In the Clear,” ZIK TV channel, Lviv:
“Nothing of the sort will happen – first of all because the so-called traditional national democratic electorate is the most ungrateful, the most hypocritical, the blindest, and the most bilious segment of society. It suffers from selective amnesia, for it can only remember the bad side. The so-called ‘patriots’ bear a grudge against each and every except for themselves, so they blame all sins on anybody but themselves. They are a negatively-motivated category of voters. They will never vote for somebody or something. They will surely never vote in gratitude for success because they never think in terms of gratitude or success. Traditional national democrats will choke with the shit slung onto the head rather than stop shouting themselves hoarse that ‘Yushchenko was the best president, but the nation is not yet mature enough to know this.’ Religious fanatics from Goddesses in White are of the same ilk, not to mention the black-red flag wavers – the classics of sectarian thinking. Winning the gratitude of this electorate is the same as straying into a deep quagmire without noticing that a thick layer of impassable mud has buried you. If Yanukovych’s spin masters are seriously counting on the votes of this electorate, I must bitterly disappoint them: even if Yanukovych presents every national democrat with an apartment and a car to boot, he will get in reply nothing but insults and curses.
“For this reason, Yanukovych will be unable to recruit ‘patriot’ at the expense of successful integration into Europe. For they fully exposed themselves in the first-past-the-post constituencies during the latest parliamentary elections – our patriots, democrats, nationalists, and simply good people would line up for material handouts from self-nominees or well-to-do candidates, and then, having wheedled all they could out of them, they voted for the ‘single’ and ‘agreed-upon’ ones whom they had never laid eyes on. Moreover, these people are piously convinced that they did a good and Godly thing. So I am inclined to think that Yanukovych should give up western Ukraine as lost, for it is no longer able to reappraise the figure of the president. Yanukovych is too demonized, reviled, and Internet-memed in the eyes of western Ukrainians to be re-branded by means of association with the EU, even though no other than this president will go down in Ukraine’s history as the head of state who ‘helped Ukrainians achieve their centuries-old dream to join the European family.’ A paradox of sorts… The president who began his term with the Kharkiv Accords is finishing it as the most successful ‘Europe integrator’ and the most independent politician of this country.
“Ukraine never ceases to amaze me – it is only here that something of the sort is possible. The so-called national democrats will be unable and unwilling to appreciate this even when, thanks to the efforts of a much-maligned Yanukovych, they begin to freely cross the border and stroll on European squares on weekends. The ‘westerners’ will take this for granted, as sort of Yanukovych’s apology to patriots for his previous non-patriotism or, to be more exact, for the very fact of his existence. Yanukovych will not take an electoral leap forward. And this fatal deception will spike his guns. No matter what he may have done for this country, the latter is ready to sling mud at him without saying a word of thanks. He deserves this, doesn’t he?”