Friday, 12 February 2010

Democracy for the rich and trustworthy. More reaction to Ukraine's election.

I’d overlooked this gem from the Moscow Times, but Moscow Tory highlighted it on Facebook. It is a piece by regular contributor, and host of a political talk show on liberal radio station Ekho Moskvy, Yulia Latynina.

The ironic thing is that, although columnists like Tim Garton Ash would never couch their own pieces in such terms, you get the feeling that the sentiment is not entirely dissimilar as regards the Ukraine election. The odd limp acknowledgment of the democratic process has generally accompanied deeply condescending analyses of the electorate’s choice.

Now, full disclosure here, living in Northern Ireland, with a cohort of ex terrorists in government alongside the Free P Taliban, only the insensate have never questioned whether democracy always produces an ideal outcome.

In the most trying circumstances we remind ourselves of Churchill’s maxim, that democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those others which have been tried from time to time. And we consider that, ultimately, the electorate get the representation they deserve.

Still, the notion that poor people cannot be trusted with the franchise? It is an outrageous proposition, however petulant Latynina might feel in the aftermath of the Ukrainian poll. And likening Yanukovych to Hitler? Absurd.

Viktor Yanukovych’s victory in Sunday’s presidential election — not unlike the victories of former Chilean President Salvador Allende, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad or Adolf Hitler — once again raises doubt about the basic premise of democracy: that the people are capable of choosing their own leader. Unfortunately, only wealthy people are truly capable of electing their leaders in a responsible manner. Poor people elect politicians like Yanukovych or Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

When the Orange Revolution hit Ukraine five years ago, the people arose in a united wave and did not allow themselves to be deceived by the corrupt elite. That elite had reached an agreement with the criminals and oligarchs of Donetsk to make a minor criminal, who could not string two sentences together, the successor to former Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma.

Poor people are capable of feats of bravery and revolution. They can storm the Bastille, overthrow the tsar or stage an Orange Revolution. But impoverished people are incapable of making sober decisions and voting responsibly in a popular election. And this, unfortunately, applies to Russia as well. In the unfair presidential election of 2000, Vladimir Putin emerged the winner.


Yulia Latynina is renowned for her intemperance and fits of pique. In another celebrated outburst, she accused a coterie of western politicians, including George Bush Jnr, of being 'recruited' by Vladimir Putin. Stephen Nolan eat your heart out!

The fact is, however, that, often in the post Soviet space, the 'liberals' whom the west lauds and encourages are deeply unpleasant. We think of Limonov in Russia and, to a lesser extent, his ally Kasparov, who has next to no support, but is treated like a statesman in the US.

In Ukraine Yanukovych is vilified, whilst Yushchenko, who made a vindictive, foolhardy and corrupt leader, was heralded as a democrat. Yulia Tymoshenko, the gas princess and friend of oligarchs, is hardly lily-white either. Despite clear, impartial evidence that the election was free and fair, she refuses to accept the people's mandate.

Most damning of all, the infatuation which Mikheil Saakashvili, the Georgian president whose monstrous ego, and nationalist fanaticism, could easily have fomented a third world war.

The moral is simple. 'My enemies' enemy', is not a sufficient basis for friendship.

And the suspicion remains that, for many western democracies, Yulia Latynina's attitude, that freedom only pertains when sufficient ballots are cast for a favoured candidate, strikes a chord.

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