For a man suffering from Dioxin poisoning, Viktor Yushchenko is lucky. Yushchenko’s ascension to the Presidency of the Ukraine was aided by the passionate support of his Ukrainian constituents, and intense international pressure that helped persuade his opponent to negotiate and the Ukranian Supreme Court to order a do-over. Good thing he wasn’t running for president against George W. Bush.
There is no question that Yushchenko’s supporters were partially responsible for his eventual success, they took to the streets, camping out in tent cities that paralyzed much of the country. But equally indisputable, is that Yushchenko’s bid for the presidency was dramatically aided by intense international scrutiny and pressure. The result were new elections widely believed to hold greater legitimacy that the last round. And while Yushchenko’s election is a victory for Ukraine, it is also testament international community’s power to gently enforce democratic norms and create positive change in the domestic affairs of a member nation.
As an outsider, Bush has made clear that clean elections in the Ukraine are important to him. "There's just a lot of allegations of vote fraud that place their elections, the validity of their elections, in doubt," Bush said on November 26th, "The international community is watching very carefully. People are paying very close attention to this”.
Such sentiments seem strange coming from Bush. In his resolute refusal to heed international opinion about our domestic issues, and his lassiez-faire attitude toward voting irregularities, he seems the wrong messenger for this particular message. Had Yushchenko been running in place of John Kerry, and had the same problems emerged here in the US, the outcome of the Yushchenko/Bush match-up would have been anything but a victory for democracy.
Imagine for a moment Bush’s reaction to the international community’s electoral concerns: The French telling us how to run an election? Unthinkable. Not only would Bush have utterly refused to acknowledge international opprobrium, he’d have used it to galvanize anti-Yushchenko sentiment.
And demonstrators in the streets? Mass arrests in the name of stability would have been not only countenanced, but encouraged. A tent city on the Mall in Washington would have lasted just a few hours before the national guard and thousands of police arrested everyone in sight and carted off the refuse. The scary thing is, Americans would’ve been just fine with that. As it turns out, we’ve become a country too complacent to complain and too fat to demonstrate.