To many University students, the importance of an election held in Ukraine is paramount to the importance of yellow or orange M & Ms. But the turmoil that has erupted over the last few weeks concerning the legitimacy of recently held elections is worthy of concern.
Officials from NATO, the European Parliament and Council of Europe have criticized the election’s fairness. Secretary of State Colin Powell has called the Ukrainian presidential election a fraud. He also said the United States should not accept a Victor Yanukovich victory as legitimate. President George W. Bush has taken a more velvet-glove approach and sent Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., to offer hopes that the election was fair.
The United States has placed pressure on Russian President Vladimir Putin to help ensure that the process was indeed fair, and it must continue to do so. The battle is Cold War deja vu. The United States supports and prefers Viktor Yuschenko. Russia, on the other hand, supports Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich. The United States must call for a fair election, but it should not try to influence the election results.
Ukraine has only been a democracy for 13 years. It is in our interests – and most importantly the interests of the Ukrainian people – that their election be legitimate. The issue is not whether Ukraine is pro-United States or pro-Russia, but whether Ukraine’s people can choose their own leaders.
The core of every democratic government is the elections process. In less than six months, Iraq will hold elections. Bush has sworn his support for democratic government; he can fulfill that pledge not by swaying who won but by challenging the results of an election with evidence of fraud.
Given the problem the United States has had with the Electoral College, voter fraud and disenfranchisement, we are not the perfect example of a functioning democracy.
In the least, however, we can place pressure on leaders to ensure elections are fair and represent the true voice of the Ukrainian people.