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December 23, 2004
Yanukovych Now Styles Himself An Outsider

Ukrainian presidential candidate Viktor Yanukovych, whose run-off victory in November was annulled by the Ukrainian Supreme Court after massive vote fraud provoked a huge protest movement, has lost the support of his former patron and current president, Leonid Kuchma. As a result, Yanukovych has now decided to cast his candidacy -- which once enjoyed the backing of the current government, the state-influenced media, and the Russians -- as that of the crusading outsider:

Viktor Yanukovych is trying to reinvent himself.

A prime minister who was once considered the pro-government candidate, Yanukovych has, in the runup to Sunday's court-ordered election revote, put himself forward as an opposition figure - keeping at arm's length his own boss and former backer, outgoing President Leonid Kuchma.

The reinvention came after he was abandoned not only by Kuchma, but also by his campaign manager and other key campaign advisers and supporters. Even the Kremlin, which once enthusiastically pushed his candidacy, has cooled on the 54-year-old politician from Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine.

What's Ukrainian for chutzpah? Here we have the beneficiary of state-sponsored voter fraud and intimidation, the hand-picked successor to the current regime, and the darling of Russian president Vladimir Putin, trying to convince Ukrainians that he now represents their best chance for reform. It's an audacious, if insulting, new strategy. For Ukrainians to swallow this, he has to expect them to suffer a case of collective amnesia so profound that many of the voters might forget their own names first.

Of course, some Ukrainians have no problem seeing Yanukovych as an outsider, but not in the manner that the current Prime Minister would like:

After becoming prime minister, Yanukovych - a native Russian-speaker - had to struggle to improve his command of Ukrainian, a language neglected by Soviet authorities.

Ukrainian-speakers were appalled when he made two Ukrainian spelling errors when filing his candidacy papers.

I had no idea that Ukrainians were this funny, except of course for the Crazy Uke. The Crazy Uke kept us in stitches during the last smoker we had at Jasperwood. Something tells me that an evening with Yanukovych would be a great deal less amusing, and would leave one with a strong desire to shower afterwards.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at December 23, 2004 1:14 PM

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