Reading through my comments, I'm seeing that the situation really isn't clear to some in the West. Discounting the reflexively silly Bush-haters, there are some normal people who are viewing this simply through the lens of election corruption. That's only the surface.Yes, indeed, it is hard for this blogger to fathom the incestuous fusing of economics and politics. A system of nepotism that results in unfair competition in awarding recently privatized contracts?! Collusion to maintain the power status quo?! Over our heads to be sure.
You have to understand the situation in Ukraine. The country is run by a series of oligarchic clans that actually found their beginnings in the Soviet Union, and then grew fabulously rich during the early days of "privatization".
Compare the situation to Russia, where an authoritarian Putin faced off against corrupt oligarchs. In Ukraine, authoritarianism and oligarchy are fused. Yanukovych isn't just another unscrupulous candidate, he's the main man of Akhmetov -- the duke of Donetsk and the richest man in Ukraine. The current president, Kuchma, is the head of a different clan, Dnepropetrovsk. The presidential administrator is Medvedchuk, who happens to run the Kiev-based Medvedchuk-Surkis clan. He also owns the two biggest Ukrainian TV stations, which is awfully convenient.
While there is jockeying for control among these clans, the overall effect is for them to sustain one another in power. They all depend on the same system for survival, and actively collaborate to keep it in place.
A good example of the clan system in action was the recent privatization of the Kryvorizhstal factory. Western firms offered 2.1 billion dollars. It was sold to the presidents son-in-law for 800 million. His son-in-law is Pinchuk, the head of the Pinchuk-Derkach clan.
Do you start to see how life works here? This isn't about a few stolen votes. It's about an entire system of fine control over the political, social and economic life of the people. Economics and politics are incestuously fused here in a way that is difficult to imagine for those in the West.
Then there was this comment on the thread:
I think in the West, we are missing a frame of reference here. I had to look up the woory [sic] oligarchy in the dictionary just to make sure it meant what I think it meant. The situation is Russia is totally alien and I think we have no idea what that is, so it doesn't make a good comparison. Now I have to go look up authoritarianism. Such strange concepts in government.God will punish me I am sure but I couldn't stop myself from responding that if she needed to look up the word "oligarchy" or "authoritarianism" it wasn't because she is a westerner, it was because she wasn't very well educated. (Though I did encourage her to keep learning.)
But now I understand. You're saying that power and wealth is controlled within a small, elite, inbred group. The good old boy's network, as it were. Although there are actually various clans of good old boys.
So, it isn't just about election fraud. That's almost a given. It is about an entire system that is being tipped in the balance of a few small elite groups.
The Yush* guy was some sort of democratic like candidate. Or at least, one less well connected, we are to understand?...
Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to draw spurious connections. It just was one of those moments in blogland that made me go "hmmm." But then, I am a reflexively silly Bush-hater, so take it for what it's worth.