Yanukovich Issues Veiled Threat, Vows To Appeal Election

Viktor Yanukovych does not plan on going out with dignity in the Ukrainian presidential elections. Not only will he not concede, he asserted that the apparent President-elect Viktor Yushschenko should take care to avoid the entire eastern half of his own country:

Ukraine’s Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich refused to concede a historic rerun presidential vote Monday, and vowed to ask the supreme court to throw out official results which showed his rival Viktor Yushchenko won by a formidable margin.
“I will never acknowledge such a defeat because the constitution and human rights were violated,” he said in televised remarks. “We have lost nothing.”
“We intend to get the supreme court to review the outcome of the election and to cancel the results,” he said.

International observers — 12,500 of them, more than double the last run-off — agreed that the elections were not perfect. However, the head of OCSE, which provided Western observers, noted that the new run-off came “substantially closer” to accepted free-election norms than the last one. Combined with a healthy 8-point margin of victory with all but 0.24% of all precincts reporting, and minus Yanukovych’s previous support from Leonid Kuchma and Vladimir Putin, Yanukovych appears headed for the scrapheap of Ukrainian history.
That hasn’t kept Yanukovych from making wild remarks and attempting to stir up trouble. He blamed eight deaths of elderly Ukrainians on Yushchenko and the election reforms that briefly blocked “home voting” (absentee balloting), disparaging any celebration of the election by the Orange Revolutionaries. He also threatened his own street demonstrations and appeared to threaten Yushchenko:

Asked by AFP if he intended to call his own supporters into the streets to protest the outcome of Sunday’s vote, Yanukovich said: “I am not asking anything of anyone.” But he added: “But I can’t rule out that groups of people could come on their own” into the streets of Kiev.
Yanukovich said people in some Russian-speaking regions of eastern Ukraine where his support is strongest felt they had been cheated in the election and would feel “unhappy, to put it mildly” if Yushchenko were to travel there.

If that’s Yanukovych’s idea of democracy, it explains the armed thuggery conducted on his behalf in the last runoff election.

Europeans Try Taking Page From Democrats In Dealing With Bush

Today’s Washington Post reports on the state of US-European relations through the prism of Europe’s primary foreign-policy priority, settlement of the Palestinian question. Glenn Kessler writes that Europeans have a threshold of “cooperation” that they expect Bush to meet before dealing with him that closely resembles Democrat ideas of “bipartisanship” — and promises to be just as successful:

President Bush and his top aides have repeatedly said they want to improve relations with European allies in Bush’s second term, beginning with a presidential visit in February. Bush has also said he believes the death of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat has provided a new opportunity to pursue peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
Yet those twin goals will be continually tested and at times may conflict in the coming year, administration and European officials say.
Few issues separate the Bush administration from Europe as much as which course to pursue in the Middle East. European officials, in fact, have signaled they believe that Bush’s willingness to bend to their view on the Israeli-Palestinian issue will be a true test of his sincerity about improving relations.

Europeans might ask John Kerry and Tom Daschle how well it worked out for them, expecting George Bush to bend to the Democrats’ view as a “true test” of Bush’s sincerity. Bush does not respond well to extortion, nor will he toss aside the push for democratic reform, for which he committed American blood and treasure in that region, just to assist Europe in their quest to make Israel the Czechoslovakia of the 21st century and Palestine the new Munich.
In fact, Kessler’s report makes not one single mention of the most salient fact about the conflict, which is that Palestinian terror has made any accommodation by Israel impossible. Kessler writes at length about European exasperation with the US for not publicly pressuring Israel to make peace with Arafat and now Abbas, but doesn’t even note that Israelis don’t target women and children for death. Palestinians don’t die for eating pizza or riding the bus.
The European position has remained firmly on the side of appeasement. In fact, Europe has been remarkably consistent in this approach, appeasing Saddam publicly and privately as well. The only party to which Europe holds any standard of decency is the only functioning, Western-style democracy in Southwest Asia. Why do the Europeans blanch at the idea that the Arabs of the West Bank and the Ba’athists of Iraq should be held just as accountable for their transgressions, more so for their deliberately murderous results? Is it cowardice, an inability to stand up to the petty tyrannies of the region? Or is it Europe’s still-vibrant anti-Semitism? Or perhaps a collective guilt for the atrocities that made a Jewish homeland necessary for the survival of Jewish culture and people?
Whatever it is, don’t expect George Bush to buy into it. He won’t sacrifice the moral and strategic ground of Israel to buy a little kindness and approval from the moral midgets of Europe. Bush wants to press both sides for a resolution to the issue, but he can’t make the Palestinians renounce their taste for blood and he won’t make Israel stop defending itself from it. If Europe thinks that they can set the bar for cooperation, they will find soon enough that Bush doesn’t play that game.

British Conservatives Get Serious About Smaller Government

In a move that reminds one of the Reagan Era in American politics, the British Conservative Party has emphasized its mission to reduce the size of government in the United Kingdom. It plans on starting at the top:

The Conservatives will cut the number of MPs, ministers and special advisers by a fifth within five years if they win the election.
Proposals for a “smaller government” Bill, to be published this week, will also promise a referendum in Wales on whether to abolish its assembly.
The Tories said yesterday that Labour’s constitutional changes had made the country “over-governed, over-regulated and over-taxed”.
The rejection by referendum this year of Government plans for a regional assembly in the North East has encouraged the Tories to put plans for reducing the size and role of the state at the heart of their election manifesto.

When the Republicans began their long, slow march to power in the 1980s, they preached the value of smaller government, and not just for cost reduction. Smaller government also has less reach into our personal decisions, allowing greater individual liberty and an unfettered economy to raise the standard of living across all strata. Unfortunately, along the way the GOP lost sight of the goal in its effort to reach the apex of their political momentum. While the GOP still offers more in reduction of regulation than the Democrats, they’ve hardly proved themselves significantly better than Democrats at reducing the federal government’s size or budget.
The British Conservatives intend on putting their money where their mouth is. Reducing Parliament represents the ultimate in government reduction. It means less expense to British taxpayers, both directly and indirectly; less hands means less pork, after all. It also has the effect of concentrating power in fewer hands, a sword which cuts both ways. More interestingly, the Conservatives have also promised to cut the number of “special advisers”, political staffers that amount to little more than patronage — whose numbers have grown significantly under Labour’s governance.
The Conservatives have been out of power for years in the UK. In the face of the monstrous bureaucracy that the EU threatens to become, the message of “less is more” may well attract British voters and give the Tories the toehold they need to compete in the next election. If successful, perhaps they will also inspire the GOP to return to the original mission that Republicans promised twenty years ago.
UPDATE: Er, United Kingdom, not United Nations. (Hat tip: Ric Locke.)

Orange On Top (Updated)

Viktor Yushchenko has declared victory in the Ukrainian presidential run-off today, leading current Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych by 16 points with 63% of all precincts reporting. The leader of the spontaneous and peaceful Orange Revolution will apparently complete the triumph of people power in Ukraine:

“For 14 years we have been independent, but now we are free. This is a victory for the Ukrainian people, for the Ukrainian nation,” the 50-year-old opposition leader and former prime minister said as his audience broke into applause and chants of “Yu-shchenk-ko! Yu-shchen-ko!”
Yushchenko appeared in public as the central election commission reported that he held a 16-point lead over his pro-Russian opponent, Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich, with more than 63 percent of the country’s precincts reporting results.
The commission credited Yushchenko with 55.98 percent of the vote, compared to 40.2 percent for Yanukovich. Three independent exit polls published at the close of voting Sunday gave Yushchenko at least a 15-point lead over his rival.

It looks like Ukraine has successfully shaken off the shackles of Russian domination and will move necessarily towards the West, EU, and NATO. Ukraine’s push from her former Soviet master, Putin, will create a movement of former satellites, some towards the West, and possibly some towards Islam. While the West justifiably celebrates the freedom of Ukraine, the effect of the Orange Revolution may yet have consequences along the southern border of the former Russian empire that we will find much less palatable.
UPDATE: People wonder what I meant by the above warning. What Yushchenko’s victory demonstrates to the former Soviet republics is that Putin’s influence has its limits — and more specifically, that the West will not allow Putin to act overtly against independent-minded movements along his border. The EU and the US both forced Putin to cut ties to Ukraine to which the Russians believe they are entitled. That works well in Ukraine, where the people have a long history of Judeo-Christian society. That may work less well in the ‘stans, where the tradition goes more along Islamic lines.
Having just shown Putin to be more or less a paper tiger in a region that the Russians consider to be of key strategic importance, what lesson do you think Islamists in those southern states will learn? I’m very happy that democracy prevailed in Ukraine, and I firmly believe that the West took the principled and correct approach. We had better keep our eyes open for the consequences of our actions, however.
UPDATE II: It’s as official as it will get, for now — Yushchenko has won the election by over 3 million votes, ironically about the same amount that the Kuchma government manufactured in the last election to defeat Yushchenko.

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.

Putin Smells The Coffee

After a full month of openly backing the handpicked successor to Ukrainian president Leonid Kuchma, Vladimir Putin has suddenly reversed course and proclaimed his readiness to work with opposition candidate and frontrunner Viktor Yuschenko, the AP reports:

Russian President Vladimir Putin, who openly backed Viktor Yushchenko’s rival for president of the Ukraine, said Tuesday he could work with an administration headed by the pro-Western candidate.
“We have worked with him already and the cooperation was not bad,” Putin said during a visit to Germany. “If he wins, I don’t see any problems.”

Just a couple of weeks ago, Putin warned of a civil war in Ukraine if Yushchenko won a new run-off election. His comments sparked talks of secession in eastern Ukraine, where Russia has significant influence and where PM Viktor Yanukovych enjoys his greatest support. In fact, the AP also reports that Yushchenko’s campaign caravan was denied entry into Donetsk by Yanukovych protestors, highlighting the severe tensions between the east and west.
Now that Putin has grudgingly conceded that he will work with whoever wins the new run-off, the east-west divide may heal somewhat after the election is over. Yanukovych, who has largely been abandoned by Kuchma and a significant amount of his power base, cannot feel too happy about Putin’s concession.

They Threw An Election And No One Came

The dictatorship of Turkmenistan conducted a parliamentary election today, electing new members for its rubber-stamp partnership with the personality-cult strongman Saparmurat Niyazov. Unfortunately for Niyazov, his oppressive rule has made elections so superfluous that polling officials had to go door-to-door to get people to vote:

Polling stations were nearly empty Sunday in elections for Turkmenistan’s rubber-stamp parliament, forcing officials to carry ballot boxes door-to-door in this nation ruled by a former Soviet Communist boss who has been declared president-for-life.
The 131 candidates contesting Parliament’s 50 seats all represent the Central Asian country’s only party, the Democratic Party led by President Saparmurat Niyazov. …
All the candidates officially support Niyazov’s policies, and based their campaigns on promoting the ideas in his book, “Rukhnama,” which sets moral and spiritual guidelines for the country’s citizens. It is held as a sacred text.

The act of boycotting the elections actually represents a remarkable protest by the Turkmens, who have lived under almost-total isolation and oppression by the man who styles himself the Father Of All Turkmens. Even the failure to vote can put people at risk in Turkmenistan, and the few people who commented to the AP reporter refused to fully identify themselves. The Niyazov regime survived an assassination attempt a couple of years ago, but if this reaction gives any indication, the populace may be ready to rise up and demand significant change at the top.

Do You Think This Means Us?

The Council of Europe has recommended that its 46 member nations enact laws requiring Internet media outlets to allow governments the right to publish responses to articles correcting “false information” on their sites:

The Council of Europe has called on its 46 member-states to introduce legislation on the right of reply to correct false information on online media.
It said the Committee of (Foreign) Ministers, executive of the European human rights watchdog body, had adopted a recommendation on the right to reply for online Internet media.
This recommended that members consider introducing legislation on the “right of reply or any other equivalent remedy, which allows a rapid correction of incorrect information in online or off-line media……”
A statement said the recomendation “urges member-states to extend the right to reply which until now applied to the written press, radio and television, to online communication services providing information edited in a journalistic manner.”

Is it just me, or does that description of Internet media seem overly broad? After all, Captain’s Quarters is read in Europe, as well as North and South America, Africa, and the Middle East. While I do not pretend to be a journalist, I hope that my writing and presentation are professional enough to fit the description of “information edited in a journalistic manner”. Of course, I do not reside within any of the 46 member-states of the CoE, but a number of high-quality bloggers do — and this appears to give governments the right to hijack their virtual press to publish state-sponsored propaganda.
One could interpret this as highly flattering to the blogosphere at which it obviously aims. After all, most of these governments have their own media outlets, or at least have private media concerns who regularly publish and dissect government pronouncements. It isn’t as if the nations have no voice in the world. The notion, though, that their voices are less powerful than online news and commentary sites boggles the mind. Even if it isn’t true, their anxiety over a perceived imbalance of power causes me to wonder how much the world really has changed since the advent of the blogosphere.
The CoE recommendation doesn’t have any force, and the governments may decide that the effort to enact and enforce the provisions aren’t worth the investment. In my opinion, it represents an intolerable incursion on freedom of expression. After all, a privately-owned site should not be forced to publish views that go against the beliefs of its owners, and for patently untrue articles, other legal recourses exist, such as libel torts. The fear and loathing of a free and unfettered electorate with influence and power beyond that of presidents and potentates, however, should delight the citizen journalists of Europe and the entire world.

Japan Blinks, For Now

After having been insulted by the North Koreans over fraudulent remains of kidnapped Japanese citizens, Japan threatened economic sanctions if Kim Jpng-Il’s regime did not answer for its intransigence. This led to a threat from Pyongyang that Japanese sanctions would amount to war and that the DPRK would respond in kind. This morning, Japan blinked, at least for the moment:

Japan says it will give North Korea more time to resolve a dispute over kidnapped Japanese citizens before imposing sanctions.
Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi made the pledge after talks with visiting South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun.
The Japanese government is under pressure to impose sanctions over a row concerning kidnapped Japanese.

Japan had a lot of company, with Roo’s voice joining that of China and the US advising that Japan essentially do nothing but complain. Kim Jong-Il has won another minor battle in the multilateral talks without much of a fight.
Over the past decades, the North Koreans kidnapped a number of Japanese citizens and enslaved them — there is no better word for it — in order to learn how to infiltrate Japanese society and plan for its destruction. No one knows for sure how many were taken, but Pyongyang finally admitted to the practice earlier this year and promised to return the remains of those who died as slaves to Kim Jong-Il. After all that, with the families of those kidnapped waiting for the chance to inter their loved ones, the Kim regime pulled a bait-and-switch and sent back the cremains of others. Apparently Pyongyang had no idea that cremains can be tested for DNA analysis.
Under any other circumstances, these revelations should provoke a strong response, and indeed the Kim regime appears to practically beg for it. Still, the appeasement approach to Kim Jong-Il continues, and like Hitler in 1938, Kim must be wondering exactly what it takes for his enemies to finally figure out that he won’t ever settle for peace.