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An Exchange Over Ukraine By: FrontPage Magazine
FrontPageMagazine.com | Wednesday, December 22, 2004


(Below Rachel Ehrenfeld and John Radzilowski duel over the legitimacy of the Ukrainian opposition -- the Editors).

Ukraine’s Opposition Fraud
By Rachel Ehrenfeld

The Election in
Ukraine suffered not only from government fraud, as has been widely reported.  I know because I was a member of a group of 62 U.S. and foreign observers sponsored by the Institute for the Study of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and Eastern Europe, a nonpartisan think-tank based in Israel.   

We monitored some 25 to 30 urban and rural polling stations across the greater
Kiev
metropolitan area.  Our group did find discrepancies between voter registration lists and actual voters during the first round of the two-stage election in some of the polling stations we inspected, but these were corrected by special legislation before the second round occurred.  

We can attest however that the Ukrainian elections officials at those polling stations made every effort to ensure that the elections were fair and legal.  We observed no violations of the elections laws and regulations by anybody associated with the Ukrainian government at the polling stations we visited.   

Nor was there any apparent interference by the authorities with the people’s right to a free vote — an observation affirmed by the impressively high turnout.  

In fact, all of the major violations we witnessed at various polling stations were engineered by the orange-clad supporters of opposition presidential candidate Viktor Yushchenko.  

Time after time, we witnessed blatant interference by the opposition party’s “orange” monitors inside some of the polling stations — all of them easily identifiable in orange-colored clothes and scarves. They routinely intimidated voters by hovering over them and even escorting them to the booths to see how they voted — acts that interrupted the orderly flow of voters at many polling places.  

Nor were some foreign observer delegations exempt from strident partisanship.  We took photos of an Organization for Security & Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) automobile with two flags on its fenders, one its own and the other the orange flag of Yushchenko’s political party.   

The flagrant mounting of the opposition party’s flag next to its own certainly calls into question the neutrality of those OSCE election watchdogs.  It should have set off alarms among media observers, yet it never rated a mention in European and American press reports.              

While Yushchenko’s followers have based much of their call for a new election on claims that exit polls showed their man winning, we observed no independent elect ion polls being conducted at the polling stations we monitored.               

Only the opposition party’s “monitors” took notes of voters’ activities and interruptions that they themselves caused; notes that we could only conclude must have served as in their subsequent claim about exit poll results.  

Nevertheless, the staff at the polling stations we visited were able to ensure that citizens were able to vote freely; and the votes were subsequently counted meticulously.  

Because of our direct observations, we were dumfounded by post-election protests we saw in downtown
Kiev
early in the morning after the elections.  

A large stage with huge TV monitors was in place; huge banners were hung on nearby buildings overnight; orange flags, banners and spray-painted carnation s were everywhere — all testaments to well-funded advance preparations for the “spontaneous” outrage by the opposition leaders and their supporters.  

The activities we witnessed in greater
Kiev
, along with the ensuing civil disobedience, seemed to us to be a pre-planned campaign to seize power for Yushchenko.  However, these protests were reported without skepticism by members of the Western press.
 
Our eyewitness account of he election we witnessed, does not imply that similar events took place elsewhere, or that the government did not engage in similar activities or worse. It only shows that widespread violations were apparently the rule on both sides.
 
If a true democracy, a concept new to Ukraine, is to prevail there, all of its aspiring leaders must realize that it is the public will as recorded in a legitimate voting process  — not street demonstrations by one candidate’s  supporters  — that must determine the winners and losers.  

Rachel Ehrenfeld, Ph.D.,  is a member of the Committee on the Present Danger, director of the New York-based American Center for Democracy, and author of many publications, including several books, the most recent: Funding Evil; How Terrorism is Financed—and How to Stop It .

 

*


Potemkin's Electoral Observers

By John Radzilowski

Dr.
Rachel Ehrenfeld's observation that the Ukrainian opposition movement may have engaged in fraud in last month's election may well prove to be correct. However, to equate the massive theft of the election by the government with some relatively petty acts by Yushchenko supporters is highly misleading.
 
Of all independent observers of the Ukrainian elections, hers was apparently the only one to discover no fraud committed by the government. Instead it apparently found all the fraud committed by the opposition. This is quite literally unbelievable. The Ukrainian Supreme Court -- hardly a tool of the opposition -- documented case after case of fraud committed by the government. Though all such charges and the evidence behind them deserve to be fairly investigated, the overwhelming preponderance of evidence brought forward so far points in one direction.
 
Dr. Ehrenfeld presents a type of conspiracy theory in which some powerful but unnamed forces perpetrated this fraud against the weak and helpless Ukrainian government. Moreover, the OSCE, a bi-partisan group of
U.S.
Senators, and other international observers were all in on the plot. This simply flies in the face of reality and is a great example of western naivete when it comes to the deceptions that are possible in an authoritarian state with years of single party rule, censorship, and police control.
 
The government party controlled the security forces, nearly all the press and TV, and most of the major electoral bodies. There was massive intervention in the election from the Russian authorities. The opposition candidate was mysteriously poisoned. And yet, Dr. Ehrenfeld finds nothing amiss here. If we look at the track record of the current Ukrainian government, its regular abuses of power, and examine reports by groups such as Transparency International, it is clear that the recent election falls into a well-worn pattern. Are we now to believe that for the first time in its existence the Kuchma regime not only played the game honestly but was itself a victim of a clever fraud?
 
The appearance of a spontaneous and well-organized demonstration in Kyiv after the election may be a mystery to some, but the real story of the Ukrainian election was that Ukrainian society had far greater civic resources and solidarity than most people realized (including many Ukrainians). The demonstrations in Kyiv are not being sustained by some well-funded effort. The demonstrators are being fed, clothed, and supported by the people of Kyiv, not some secret organization.
 
To be sure,
Ukraine has a long way to go and the opposition movement and its leaders are flawed humans who have their own demons with which to wrestle. The track record of former Soviet republics and ex-Soviet bloc countries shows that there are many possible detours and pitfalls on the way to democracy and freedom. Nor should we confuse democratic mechanisms with freedom. The former are a means to the latter and not a substitute for freedom as the cases of Russia and Venezuela
demonstrate.
 
Sometimes things really are what they seem and conspiracy theories that purport to explain it all in a neat package may tell us more about those who promote them than about the facts on the ground. The Kuchma regime's brutality and corruption are matched only by its incompetence. These traits have now been revealed to the world and we look the other way at our own peril. Why otherwise intelligent and thoughtful people would support such a regime is a mystery, but as many American and West European intellectuals and "experts" demonstrated during the Cold War, there is ample seating in Minister Potemkin's carriage.
 
John Radzilowski, Ph.D., is senior fellow at Piast Institute (
www.piastinstitute.org) and author or co-author of eleven books. He lives in
Minneapolis and can be contacted at jradzilow@aol.com.

 

*

 

Ehrenfeld Responds:

My report does not merit a personal attack, nor the attribution of  conspiracy theories. I, as my other 61 team members (!) witnessed these events and submitted a report detailing what we saw.

Mine, is a straight forward account. I did not analyze the “bigger picture.” Nor did I claim the government did not engage in fraud. We did not take sides, as many other observers seemed to be doing. We only reported on what we witnessed in a small area, as objective observers. However, this was not to minimize the impressive civil spirit and desire for democracy which is clearly demonstrated by the Ukrainian people. But if democracy is the objective, reports such as ours should be taken into account, too. Whichever side wins by engaging in fraud and deceit, that side will continue to engage in similar tactics once in power. Thus, our report should serve as a cautionary tale.

 

*

 

John Radzilowski Responds:

 

One should not mistake a critique of a poorly constructed argument as a personal attack. I have no doubt that Dr. Ehrenfeld reported what she saw, but simple recitation of one own eyewitness without any sort of context can be misleading. Dr. Ehrenfeld's readers are given no background on the nature and conditions of her mission. Were the authorities monitoring the mission? Who were the translators? Did members of mission attempt to speak to or interview the Yushchenko supporters allegedly engaging the activity she witnessed? Was follow up investigation conducted on these incidents or was it simply assumed that people wearing orange were Yuschenko supporters? On what evidence does she make claims that the demonstrations that took place across Ukraine were staged in advance? Is she aware that nearly identical accusations have been made by the Kuchma government and the Russians? And, moreover, that such accusations were also made about the demonstrations that overthrew dictators in Serbia and Georgia?

 

Dr Ehrenfeld's response now clarifies for us that she is not claiming that the government did not engage in fraud. Yet her first report was that all fraud witnessed was by the opposition and no--repeat no--fraud by the government was witnessed. She then attacks all the other election monitors who did report such fraud.

 

The Ukrainian supreme court in an unprecedented and public session that was televised live across Ukraine found some 11,000 cases of fraud, committed almost exclusively by the government and its supporters. Is Dr. Ehrenfeld aware of this? Did her organization attempt to present its evidence to the court? She must understand that her account is at such variance with every other reputable account--Ukrainian and Western--that some further evidence is required.

 

We can all agree on the importance of freedom for the people of Ukraine and the role that fair and open democratic practices play in ensuring that freedom. We have just seen a massive effort to steal an election by the Ukrainian elite and massive interference by the government of Russia to ensure that theft. The centerpiece was the poisoning of the main opposition candidate with a massive dose of dioxin. While Dr. Ehrenfeld may not be writing about the "big picture," Americans who are serious about advancing freedom and democracy in the world have an obligation to do so.

A truly free and democratic Ukraine will have tremendous and positive implications for the future.

 

There is no question that realizing this will entail extraordinary effort on the part of the Ukrainians themselves and will take a long time to achieve. This outcome is by no means certain. However, we outsiders do freedom and democracy in Ukraine no favors by making careless accusations or by failing to present the bigger picture. We are seeing a people who for the past century have been subject to a long litany of horrors by various totalitarian and authoritarian regimes standing up in their millions to demand the truth, to demand freedom. Can anyone who believes in such ideals react with cynicism?

 




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