New Year Special: 2012 Predictions

It’s been a great year! To recap, in rough chronological order, 2011 saw: The most popular post (with 562 comments and counting; granted, most of them consisting of Indians and Pakistanis flaming each other); Visualizing the Kremlin Clans (joint project with Kevin Rothrock of A Good Treaty); my National Comparisons between life in Russia, Britain, and the US; my interview with (now defunct) La Russophobe; interviews with Craig Willy and Mark Chapman; lots of non-Russia related stuff concerning the Arctic, futurism, Esperanto, and the Chinese language; possibly the most comprehensive analyses of the degree of election fraud in the Duma elections in English; TV appearances on RT and Al Jazeera; and what I hope will remain productive relationships with Al Jazeera and Inosmi. Needless to say, little if any of this would have been possible without my e-buddies and commentators, so a special shout out to all you guys. In particular, I would like to mention Alex Mercouris, who as far as I can ascertain is the guy who contributed the 20,000th comment here. I should send him a special T-shirt or something.

In previous years, my tradition was to review the previous year before launching into new predictions. I find this boring and will now forego the exercise, though in passing I will note that many of the defining traits in 2010 – the secular rise of China and of “The Rest” more generally; political dysfunction in the US; growing fissures in Europe, in contrast to Eurasian (re)integration; the rising prominence of the Arctic – have remained dominant into this year. The major new development that neither I nor practically anyone else foresaw was the so-called “Arab Spring”, as part of a pattern of increasing political stress in many other states: Occupy Wall Street and its local branches in the West; the Meetings for Fair Elections in Russia; Wukan in China and anti-corruption protests in India. I don’t disagree with TIME’s decision to nominate The Protester as its person of the year. However, as I will argue below, the nature of protest and instability is radically different in all these regions. I will finish up by reviewing the accuracy of my 2011 predictions from last year.

tsar-putin1. There is little doubt that Putin will comfortably win the Presidential elections in the first round. The last December VCIOM poll implies he will get about 60%. So assuming there is no major movement in political tectonics in the last three months – and there’s no evidence for thinking that may be the case, as there are tentative signs that Putin’s popularity has began to recover in the last few weeks from its post-elections nadir. Due to the energized political situation, turnout will probably be higher than than in the 2008 elections – which will benefit Putin because of his greater support among passive voters. I do think efforts will be made to crack down on fraud so as to avoid a PR and legitimacy crisis, so that its extent will fall from perhaps 5%-7% in the 2011 Duma elections to maybe 2%-3% (fraud in places like the ethnic republics are more endemic than in, say, Moscow, and will be difficult to expunge); this will counterbalance the advantage Putin will get from a higher turnout. So that’s my prediction for March: Putin wins in the first round with 60%, followed by perennially second-place Zyuganov at 15%-20%, Zhirinovsky with 10%, and Sergey Mironov, Mikhail Prokhorov and Grigory Yavlinsky with a combined 10% or so. If Prokhorov and Yavlinsky aren’t registered to participate, then Putin’s first round victory will probably be more like 65%.

2. I will also go ahead and say that I do not expect the Meetings For Fair Elections to make headway. Despite the much bigger publicity surrounding the second protest at Prospekt Sakharova, attendance there was only marginally higher than at Bolotnaya (for calculations see here). So the revolutionary momentum was barely maintained in Moscow, but flopped everywhere else in the country – as the Medvedev administration responded with what is, in retrospect, a well balanced set of concessions and subtle ridicule. Navalny, the key person holding together the disparate ideological currents swirling about in these Meetings, is not gaining ground; his potential voters are at most 1% of the Russian electorate. And there is no other person in the “non-systemic opposition” with anywhere near his political appeal. There will be further Meetings, the biggest of which – with perhaps as many as 150,000 people – will be the one immediately after Putin’s first round victory; there will be the usual (implausibly large) claims of 15-20% fraud from the usual suspects in the liberal opposition and Western media. But if the authorities do their homework – i.e. refrain from violence against peaceful protesters, and successfully reduce fraud levels (e.g. with the help of web cameras) – the movement should die away. As I pointed out in my article BRIC’s of Stability, the economic situation in Russia – featuring 4.8% GDP growth in Q3 2011 – is at the moment simply not conductive to an Occupy Wall Street movement, let alone the more violent and desperate revolts wracking parts of the Arab world.

3. Many commentators are beginning to voice the unspeakable: The possible (or inevitable) disintegration of the Eurozone. I disagree. I am almost certain that the Euro will survive as a currency this year and for that matter to 2020 too. But many other things will change. The crisis afflicting Europe is far more cultural-political than it is economic; in aggregate terms, the US, Britain and Japan are ALL fiscally worse off than the Eurozone. The main problem afflicting the latter is that it suffers from a geographic and cultural rift between the North and South that is politically unbridgeable.

The costs of debt service for Greece, Portugal, Italy, and Spain are all quickly becoming unsustainable. They cannot devalue, like they would have done before the Euro; nor is Germany prepared to countenance massive fiscal transfers. The result is the prospect of austerity and recession as far as the eye can see (note that all these countries also have rapidly aging populations that will exert increasing pressure on their finances into the indefinite future). Meanwhile, “core Europe” – above all, Germany – benefits as its superior competitiveness allows it to dominate European markets for manufactured goods and the coffers of its shaky banking system are replenished by Southern payments on their sovereign debt.

The only way to resolve this contradiction is through a full-fledged fiscal union, with big longterm transfers from the North to the South. However, the best the Eurocrats have been able to come up with is a stricter version of Maastricht mandating limited budget deficits and debt reduction that, in practice, translates into unenforceable demands for permanent austerity.  This is not a sustainable arrangement. In Greece, the Far Left is leading the socialists in the run-up to the April elections; should they win, it is hard to see the country continuing on its present course. On the other side of the spectrum, the Fidesz Party under Viktor Orbán in Hungary appears to be mimicking United Russia in building a “managed democracy” that will ensure its dominance for at least the next decade; in the wake of its public divorce with the ECB and the IMF, it is hard to imagine how it will be able to maintain deep integration with Europe for much longer. (In general, I think the events in Hungary are very interesting and probably a harbinger of what is to come in many more European countries in the 2010’s; I am planning to make a post on this soon).

Maybe not in 2012, but in the longer term it is becoming likely that the future Europe will be multi-tier (not multi-speed). The common economic space will probably continue growing, eventually merging with the Eurasian Union now coalescing in the east. However, many countries will drop out of the Eurozone and/or deeper integration for the foreseeable future – the UK is obvious (or at least England, should Scotland separate in the next few years); so too will Italy (again, if it remains united), Greece, the Iberian peninsula, and Hungary. The “core”, that is German industrial muscle married to Benelux and France (with its far healthier demography), may in the long-term start acquiring a truly federal character with a Euro and a single fiscal policy. But specifically for 2012, I expect Greece to drop out of the Eurozone (either voluntarily, or kicked out if it starts printing Euros independently, as the former Soviet republics did with rubles as Moscow’s central control dissipated). The other PIGS may straggle through the year, but they too will follow Greece eventually.

I expect a deep recession at the European level, possibly touching on depression (more than 10% GDP decline) in some countries.

4. How will Russia’s economy fare? A lot will depend on European and global events, but arguably it is better placed than it was in 2008. That said, this time I am far more cautious about my own predictions; back then, I swallowed the rhetoric about it being an “island of stability” and got burned for it (in terms of pride, not money, thankfully). So feel free to adjust this to the downside.

  • The major cause of the steep Russian recession of 2008-2009 wasn’t so much the oil price collapse but the sharp withdrawal of cheap Western credit from the Russian market. Russian banks and industrial groups had gotten used to taking out short-term loans to rollover their debts and were paralyzed by their sudden withdrawal. These practices have declined since. Now, short-term debts held by those institutions have halved relative to their peak levels in 2008; and Russia is now a net capital exporter.
  • I assume this makes Russia far less dependent on global financial flows. Though some analysts use the loaded term “capital flight” to describe Russia’s capital export, I don’t think it’s fair because the vast bulk of this “flight” actually consists of Russian daughters of Western banking groups recapitalizing their mothers in Western Europe, and Russians banks and industrial groups buying up assets and infrastructure in East-Central Europe.
  • The 2008 crisis was a global financial crisis; at least *for now*, it looks like a European sovereign debt crisis (though I don’t deny that it may well translate into a global financial crisis further down the line). There are few safe harbors. Russia may not be one of them but it’s difficult to say what is nowadays. US Treasuries, despite the huge fiscal problems there? Gold?
  • Political risks? The Presidential elections are in March, so if a second crisis does come to Russia, it will be too late to really affect the political situation.
  • Despite the “imminent” euro-apocalypse, I notice that the oil price has barely budged. This is almost certainly because of severe upwards pressure on the oil price from depletion (i.e. “peak oil”) and long-term commodity investors. I think these factors will prevent oil prices from ever plumbing the depths they briefly reached in early 2009. So despite the increases in social and military spending, I don’t see Russia’s budget going massively into the red.
  • What is a problem (as the last crisis showed) is that the collapse in imports following a ruble depreciation can, despite its directly positive effect on GDP, be overwhelmed by knock-on effects on the retail sector. On the other hand, it’s still worth noting that the dollar-ruble ratio is now 32, a far cry from what it reached at the peak of the Russia bubble in 2008 when it was at 23. Will the drop now be anywhere near as steep? Probably not, as there’s less room for it fall.
  • A great deal depends on what happens on China. I happen to think that its debt problems are overstated and that it still has the fiscal firepower to power through a second global crisis, which should also help keep Russia and the other commodity BRIC’s like Brazil afloat. But if this impression is wrong, then the consequences will be more serious.

So I think that, despite my bad call last time, Russia’s position really is quite a lot more stable this time round. If the Eurozone starts fraying at the margins and falls into deep recession, as I expect, then Russia will probably go down with them, but this time any collapse is unlikely to be as deep or prolonged as in 2008-2009.

new-eurasia5. Largely unnoticed, as of the beginning of this year, Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan became a common economic space with free movement of capital, goods, and labor. Putin has also made Eurasian (re)integration one of the cornerstones of his Presidential campaign. I expect 2012 will be the year in which Ukraine joins the Eurasian common economic space. EU membership is beginning to lose its shine; despite that, Yanukovych was still rebuffed this December on the Association Agreement due to his government’s prosecution of Yulia Tymoshenko. Ukraine can only afford to pay Russia’s steep prices for gas for one year at most without IMF help, and I doubt it will be forthcoming. Russia itself is willing to sit back and play hardball. It is in this atmosphere that Ukraine will hold its parliamentary elections in October. If the Party of Regions does well, by fair means or foul, it is not impossible to imagine a scenario in which accusations of vote rigging and protests force Yanukovych to turn to Eurasia (as did Lukashenko after the 2010 elections).

6. Russia’s demography. I expect births to remain steady or fall slightly (regardless of the secular trend towards an increasing TFR, the aging of the big 1980’s female cohort is finally starting to make itself felt). Deaths will continue to fall quite rapidly, as excise taxes on vodka – the main contributor to Russia’s high mortality rates – are slated to rise sharply after the Presidential elections.

7. Obama will probably lose to the Republican candidate, who will probably be Mitt Romney. (Much as I would prefer Ron Paul over Obama, and Obama over Romney). I have an entire post and real money devoted to this, read here.

The US may well slip back towards recession if Europe tips over in a big way. I stand by my assertion that its fiscal condition is in no way sustainable, but given that the bond vigilantes are preoccupied with Europe it should be able to ride out 2012.

8. There is a 50% (!) chance of a US military confrontation with Iran. If it’s going to be any year, 2012 will be it. And I don’t say this because of the recent headlines about Iranian war games, the downing of the US drone, or the bizarre bomb plot against the Saudi ambassador in the US, but because of structural factors that I have been harping on about for several years (read the “Geopolitical Shocks” section of my Decade Forecast for more details); factors that will make 2012 a “window of opportunity” that will only be fleetingly open.

  • Despite the rhetoric, the US does not want to get involved in a showdown with Iran due to the huge disruption to oil shipping routes that will result from even an unsuccessful attempt to block of the Strait of Hormuz. BUT…
  • While a nuclear Iran is distasteful to the US, it is still preferable to oil prices spiking up into the high triple digits. But for Israel it is a more existential issue. Netanyahu, in particular, is a hardliner on this issue.
  • The US has withdrawn its troops from Iraq. In 2010, there were rumors that the US had made it clear to Israel that if it flew planes over Iraq to bomb Iran they would be fired upon. This threat (if it existed) is no longer actual.
  • The US finished the development of a next-generation bunker-busting MOP last year and started taking delivery in November 2011. But the Iranians are simultaneously in a race to harden and deepen their nuclear facilities, but this program will not culminate until next year or so. If there is a time to strike in order to maximize the chances of crippling Iran’s nuclear program, it is now. It is in 2012.
  • Additionally, if Europe goes really haywire, oil prices may start dropping as demand is destroyed. In this case, there will be an extra cushion for containing fallout from any Iranian attempt to block off the Strait of Hormuz.
  • Critically, the US does not have to want this fight. Israel can easily force its hand by striking first. The US will be forced into following up.

The chances of an Azeri-Armenian war rise to 15% from last year’s 10%. If there is any good time for Azerbaijan to strike, it will be in the chaotic aftermath following a US strike on Iran (though the same constraints will apply as before: Aliyev’s fears of Russian retaliation).

world-crude-oil-prodcution-and-fitted-growth-oil-drum

[Source: The Oil Drum].

9. Though I usually predict oil price trends (with great and sustained accuracy, I might add), I will not bother doing so this year. With the global situation as unstable as it is it would be a fool’s errand. Things to consider: (1) Whither Europe? (demand destruction); (2) What effect on China and the US?; (3) the genesis of sustained oil production decline (oil megaprojects are projected to sharply fall off from this year into the indefinite future); (4) The Iranian wildcard: If played, all bets are off. But I will more or less confidently predict that global oil production in 2012 will be a definite decrease on this year.

If investing, I would go into US Treasuries (short-term) and gold to hedge against the catastrophic developments; yuan exposure (longterm secular rise) and and US CDS (potential for astounding returns once SHTF). Property is looking good in Minsk, Bulgaria, and Murmansk. Any exposure to Arctic shipping or oil & gas is great; as the sea ice melts at truly prodigious rates, the returns will be amazing. I do think the Euro will survive and eventually strengthen as the weaker countries go out, but not to the extent that I would put money on it. Otherwise, I highly agree with Eric Kraus’ investment advice.

10. China will not see a hard landing. It has its debt problems, but its momentum is unparalleled. Economists have predicted about ten of its past zero collapses.

11. Solar irradiation was still near its cyclical minimum this year, but it can only rise in the next few years; together with the ever-increasing CO2 load, it will likely make for a very warm 2012. So, more broken records in 2012. Record low sea ice extent and volume. And perhaps 100 vessels will sail the Northern Sea Route this year.

12. Tunisia is the only country of the “Arab Spring” that I expect to form a more or less moderate and secular government. According to polls, 75% of Egyptians support death for apostasy and adultery; this is not an environment in which Western liberal ideas can realistically flourish. Ergo for Libya. I can’t say I have any clue as to how Syria will turn out. Things seem strange there: Russia and Israel are ostensibly unlikely, but actually logical, allies of Assad, while the US, France, the UK, and the Gulf monarchies are trying their best to topple him. These wars are waged in the shadows.

I've got some ways to go before I reach Navalny's demagogic stature.

I’ve got some ways to go before I reach Navalny’s demagogic stature.

13. As mentioned in the intro, 2011 has been a year of protest. As I argued in BRIC’s of Stability, in countries like China, Russia, or Brazil they will remain relatively small and ineffectual. Despite greater scales and tensions, likewise in Europe (though Greece may be an exception); these are old societies, and besides they are relatively rich. They won’t have street revolutions. I do not think Occupy Wall Street has good prospects in the US. By acting outside the mainstream (as part of a “non-systemic opposition”, to borrow from Russian political parlance) it remains irrelevant – the weed smoking and poor sartorial choices of its members works against its attaining respectability – and municipalities across the US are moving to break up their camps with only a few squeaks of protest. (This despite the arrests of 36 journalists, a number that had it been associated with Russia would have cries of Stalinism splashed across Western op-ed pages). I say this as someone who is broadly sympathetic with OWS aims and has attended associated events in Berkeley.

The nature of protest in the Arab world is fundamentally different, harkening back to earlier and more dramatic times: Bread riots, not hipsters with iPhones; against cynical and corrupt dictators, not cynical and corrupt pseudo-democrats; featuring fundamental debates about reconciling democracy, liberalism and religion, as opposed to weird slogans like “Occupy first. Demands come later.” Meh.

14. The world will, of course, end on December 21, 2012.

What about the 2011 Predictions?

1) My economic predictions were basically correct: “Today I’d repeat this, but add that the risks have heightened… The obvious loci of the next big crisis are the so-called “PIGS” (Portugal, Italy, Greece, Spain), and Ireland, Belgium and Hungary.”

2) Neither the Iranian war (chance: 40%) or an Azeri-Armenian war (chance: 10%) took place. If they don’t happen in 2012, their chances of happening will begin to rapidly decline.

3) Luzhkov still hasn’t been been hit with corruption charges, but merely called forth as a witness. Wrong.

Prediction of 3.5%-5.5% growth for Russia was exactly correct (estimates now converging to 4.0%-4.5%).

With headlines this December cropping up such as “End is nigh for Russia’s ‘reset’ with US“, my old intuition that US – Russia imperial rivalry couldn’t be set aside with a mere red plastic button may have been prescient: “In foreign policy, expect relations with the US to deteriorate.”

4) Pretty much correct about the US and the UK, though I didn’t predict anything drastic or unconventional for them.

5) “Oil prices should stay at around $80-120 in 2010 and production will remain roughly stable as increased demand (from China mostly) collides with geological depletion.” Totally correct, as usual.

6) China will grow about 9.4% this year, well in line with: “China will continue growing at 8-10% per year. Their housing bubble is a non-issue; with 50% of their population still rural, it isn’t even a proper bubble, since eventually all those new, deserted apartment blocs will be occupied anyway.”

7) 2011 was the warmest La Nina year on record, so in a sense thermometers did break records this year.

“Speaking of the Arctic, as its longterm ice volume continues to plummet and sea ice extent retreats, we can expect more circumpolar shipping. I wouldn’t be surprised to see up to 10 non-stop voyages along the Northern Sea Route from Europe to China, following just one by MV Nordic Barents in 2010.” If anything, I low-balled it. 34 ships made the passage this year! Sea ice cover was the second lowest on record, and sea ice volume was the lowest. So in the broad sense, absolutely correct.

“Likewise, expect the Arctic to become a major locus of investment.” This year, plans were announced to double the capacity of the Port of Murmansk by 2015.

8) Wrong on the Wikileaks prediction. The insurance file was released by The Guardian’s carelessness (whose journalists, David Leigh and Luke Harding, then proceeded to mendaciously lie about it), not by Assange. And the extradition proceedings are taking far longer than expected, though my suspicions that his case is politically motivated is reinforced by US prosecutors’ apparent pressure on Bradley Manning to implicate Assange in the theft of the State Department cables.

9) On Peter’s enthusiastic reminder, I did get my Russia Presidential predictions for 2012 wrong. Or 75% wrong, to be precise, and 20% right (those were the odds that I gave for Putin’s return back in May). I did however cover it separately on a different post, here. That said, I do not think the logic I used was fundamentally flawed; many other Kremlinologists ended up in the same boat (and most didn’t hedge like I did).

Comments

  1. Note on Syrian conflict:
    This Debka analysis claims (and if I am not mistaken the Debka site is well connected to Israeli intelligence) that as many as 20,000 Libyan Rebel mercenaries (funded by Qatar and led by Al Qaeda warlord Abdul Hakim Belhaj) are piling on against Assad regime in Syria. Although Israel herself assisted the anti-Gaddhafiy coalition, she must now feel threatened by this new development:
    Israel too must find cause for concern in the rise of a Sunni military intervention force capable of moving at high speed from one arena to another and made up almost entirely of Islamist terrorists. At some time, Qatar might decide to move this force to the Gaza Strip to fight Israel.

    2011 saw the rise of Qatar as major regional power. This may not last forever, but Qatar, which is immensely wealthy in its own right, now also de-facto master of Libya with all her vast oil resources (=tiny tail wagging a big dog).
    P.S. I agree with your prediction that Mitt Romney will be next Prez of USA. This is very safe bet. I believe Mitt’s foreign policy team should prove vastly superior to Obama’s (which consists only of Clintonite re-treads), and hopefully relations between USA and Russia should improve once annoying Russophobes like Clinton/Biden have been put away.

    • Not sure what to think about Debka. Much like Zero Hedge, its signal to noise ratio is really high.

      With Mitt Romney, the VVP’s return to boot, the Reset will surely end. His rhetoric, at least, is unremittingly hostile.

      • Thanks for link to Ivanov article. So, apparently Romney’s Russian advisor is Leon Aron??? Wow, he is pretty bad, Mark Adomanis once called him the “worse Russia analyst ever”. On the other hand, Obama’s Russia Hand is Zbigniew Brzezinski. From Russian POV not much to choose from! In any case, my crystal ball says Romney WILL be the next U.S. Prez, so everybody including Putin better just suck it up and deal with this reality.

        • There have been plenty of IAEA inspections in Iran in recent years, and they have not turned up any uranium at all that is enriched higher than that required for reactor fuel, just as Iran suggested was the case. Weapons-grade uranium is enriched to more than 85%. And the west is not even greatly worried at that, since it offered to provide Iran with uranium enriched to a higher degree than Iran is currently producing.

          I don’t think Israel will attack Iran. Israel is inside Iran’s missile envelope, and Iran would almost certainly retaliate if it were not completely obliterated in a surprise attack. And the world is already fed up with Israel’s constant agitating against its neighbours and inability to get along with anyone – it would never stand for that.

          Israel wants the United States to attack Iran. And I don’t think there’s much support for that – absent a galvanizing atrocity either committed by Iran/Hezbollah or blamed on Iran/Hezbollah – outside the usual room-temperature-IQ lunatic fringe. Patience for military adventures that turn out to have made-up triggers is pretty thin right now.

          • Well, I don’t know how the hell I did that, but the comment above was meant to appear under Yalensis’ 4:51 AM comment, as a direct reply to it. So please just pretend that’s the case, since this portion of the thread has nothing to do with Iran.

            But while I’m here, I’ll make you a wager. If Mitt Romney is the next president, I’ll wash his car once a month for a year. If he’s not, you wash Obama’s. Deal?

            Mitt Romney won the Iowa caucuses by 8 votes,

            http://news.smh.com.au/breaking-news-world/romney-wins-iowa-by-8-votes-20120104-1pko9.html

            against a challenger who had boasted single-digit support only weeks ago. Rick Santorum has about as much chance of actually being the nominee as he does of pole-vaulting over the English Channel, but his surge – and every candidate except Romney had one – is a measure of how repugnant Romney remains to a large sector of the conservative base. Every candidate has had a chance to be the UnRomney except Ron Paul, and just maybe even he will see a surge, although a second look at Gingrich or even Perry is more likely. But it remains obvious the Romney is deeply disliked by a lot of Republican voters, even though party elites are determined he will be the nominee.

            I don’t doubt Romney will be, and it’s plain he doesn’t doubt it either, but as a Mormon he is the Antichrist to some religious conservatives, he’s never seen a side of any issue that he didn’t like (and the intertubes have a long memory), his job-creation record as Governor was second-worst in the entire nation and he was CEO of a vulture-capital firm that specialized in breaking up and reselling companies, putting Americans out of work while he profited.

            If Barack Obama’s strategists let all of my-daddy-marched-with-Martin-Luther-King Romney’s unelectable qualities pass unchallenged,

            http://thephoenix.com/boston/news/53200-was-it-all-a-dream/

            the whole bunch of them might as well get out of politics and take up basket-weaving.

  2. … possibly the most comprehensive analyses of the degree of election fraud in the Duma elections in English…

    Too bad your sole personal contribution to those analyses was an epic fail.

    What about the 2011 Predictions?

    You got the one that mattered badly wrong, didn’t you?

    • Too bad your sole personal contribution to those analyses was an epic fail.

      First, that was not my sole personal contribution, and it was made in an informal discussion in the comments that I quickly identified and fixed. So you’re grasping at straws. I did come forwards with a theory for why opinion poll results and (fraud-adjusted) real results differ that may well be original (at least, I have not seen it expounded elsewhere; feel free to correct me if not).

      You got the one that mattered badly wrong, didn’t you?

      As you’re aware, I covered that extensively in previous posts, but I added it in nonetheless. Thanks for the reminder.

      • I did come forwards with a theory…

        I suggest you read up a bit on electoral forecasting before coming forward with any more brilliant theories.

        • That’s nice Peter, but I was considering Levada’s and VCIOM’s figures, not FOM’s.

          Regarding that post: Levada, at least, does not make adjustments to its forecasts, instead just giving the unadjusted totals from those намеренных прийти на выборы. So at the minimum my hypothesis can apply to it.

          Regarding the application of the hypothesis to this post: Again, note that VCIOM does not give a forecast, but a straightforward accounting of the breakdown of answers to the question: “Если бы президентские выборы проводились в ближайшее воскресенье, то за кого из кандидатов Вы бы проголосовали?”

          • … note that VCIOM does not give a forecast…

            По прогнозу ВЦИОМ, рассчитанному с учетом опросов населения и ЭКСПЕРТОВ-ПОЛИТОЛОГОВ [caps mine], явка на выборы составит 58%, а в Госдуму пройдут четыре партии: «Единая Россия» с результатом 53,7%, КПРФ с 16,7%, ЛДПР с 11,6% и «Справедливая Россия» с 10,0%.

            • Regarding the application of the hypothesis to this post [i.e. which is about Putin and VCIOM's UNADJUSTED figures].

              • Okay, I’ll amend my last comment:

                … but I was considering Levada’s and VCIOM’s figures, not FOM’s.

                Levada doesn’t explain quite how it counts “those намеренных прийти на выборы”, but luckily ВЦИОМ is more explicit:

                По прогнозу ВЦИОМ, рассчитанному с учетом опросов населения и ЭКСПЕРТОВ-ПОЛИТОЛОГОВ [caps mine], явка на выборы составит 58%, а в Госдуму пройдут четыре партии: «Единая Россия» с результатом 53,7%, КПРФ с 16,7%, ЛДПР с 11,6% и «Справедливая Россия» с 10,0%.

  3. Alexander Mercouris says:

    Dear Anatoly,

    Another excellent discussion.

    I pretty agree with most of this. I too think Putin will win comfortably in the first round and that the protest movement will fade out after a spike in February/March. By the way I expect Putin’s popularity to start increasing when he is President again. I also expect that Russia will ride out whatever short term problems hit the world economy in 2011 without much difficulty and that after 2013 or 2014 the rate of expansion of the Russian economy will start to grow and could reach the 6-7% Putin talks about. I also by the way expect the trend of Russian inflation to continue to fall though there could be the odd spike along the way. Incidentally on the subject of the Customs Union once it properly gets going because of past history I suspect economic reintegration processes to intensify sharply. If so then given that the countries that make up the Customs Union formed part of a single political and economic (and to a large extent even cultural) union only a short time ago I find it difficult to believe that some sort of political union will not also follow.

    I also believe (and hope) that predictions of a Chinese crash are wishful thinking but it is a long time since I was involved with China and I do not know the country as well as I once did.

    On the subject of the euro there is no reason why it should collapse given that the problem in Europe is not a currency crisis or even properly speaking a sovereign debt crisis but a crisis of the European banking system, which is insolvent. If the European leaders spent more time focusing on the problems of their banks rather than seeking to impose unrealistic deficit reduction targets on their member states they might actually achieve something. If the eurozone (and the EU) fail it will be not because of supposedly insoluble economic problems but because of bad political or economic decisions by a political leadership that is completely out of its depth and is afraid to confront the problems in its banking system.

    I am more pessimistic about Brazil and India than you.

    • I *am* pessimistic on Brazil and India. Perhaps not in the short-term (I don’t know enough about them to have a valid opinion either way), but in terms of long-term development their human capital (i.e. skills and education) is very low. This makes sustained convergence to advanced country levels impossible for them, at least within the next generation or two, as human capital and development levels tend to be tightly coupled.

      BTW Alex, the S/O blog T-Shirt offer is real. I’ve decided to start awarding people making the 10,000th-n comments. Feel free to send me your coordinates on FB or email. :)

      • Alexander Mercouris says:

        Dear Anatoly,

        Just wanted to say that now that I’ve read them properly I think your comments on Brazil and India are spot on.

        PS: Thanks for the T shirt. It is a privilege and a pleasure to comment on this blog.

  4. Mardochee augustin says:

    AK I was wondering did you read ZBIGNIEW BRZEZINSKI’s recent essay about American decline? Anyway he wrote that after the US the world will enter a chaotic multi polar world. In other words a global Diadochi. here is the link if you are interested.
    http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2012/01/03/after_america

    For 2012 Syria and Yemen will be in civil war. I doubt there will be no intervention by the west. I expect a bloody long sectarian in Syria by Assad. Syria to me is the Levantine Yugoslavia. Turkey does not want war with Syria which could lead to a regional war.
    Expect more instablity in Iraq. There was almost clashed between the Iraqi national Army and Kurdish Peshmerga in Kirkuk. That will be the flashpoint of some violence. The sunnis and kurd want autonomy. The Shiite militias are not disarmed,the sunni warlords don’t trust Baghdad,and the Kurdish Peshmerga does not want to include itself into the Iraqi Army.

    Yemen has a lot of problems. There is the powerful tribal militias,the defected Yemeni army and Saleh loyalist. Yemen is the picture of what a post peak oil middle east will look like. Yemen will be in a multi factional civil war.

    I doubt there will be a clash with Iran.2012 is an election season. Israel will no go ahead also for the reason that they are more worried about Egypt then Iran. they do not know what the government in Cairo will be and what its policy with Israel will be. The global economy cannot handle oil at $200-400 a barrel.

    Iran has formidable asymmetrical retaliatory capabilities. For example, all of these are vulnerable to Iranian sabotage or hundreds of Iranian missiles on the eastern side of the Gulf: from the narrow Straits of Hormuz, which still handles 25 percent of the world’s oil traffic; to Bahrain, the U.S. Fifth Fleet’s headquarters where the population is two-thirds Shiite and the royal family is Sunni; to Dubai, where about 400,000 Iranians live, including many who are “sleeper agents” or favorable to Tehran; to Qatar, now the world’s richest country with per-capita income at $78,000, which supplies the United States with the world’s longest runway and sub-headquarters for CENTCOM, and whose LNG facilities are within short missile range of Iran’s coastal batteries; to Saudi Arabia’s Ras Tanura, the world’s largest oil terminal, and Abqaiq, nerve center of Saudi’s eastern oil field. And Iran could foment a shiite uprising in eastern Saudi Arabia where the major oil nerves are. So with all of this oil would exceed $200-400. You think the world wants this. Israel is not dumb they will not do something as dumb as this. Hezbollah now has missiles that can cover all of Israel. And will rain hell to them.

    I expect the EU debt crisis to get worse as Italian,Greek and Spanish debt maturation occurs. We will see more of the same but AK I doubt the EU will survive that long in 2020. There is no political will to federalize the EU.

    In the US we will have a sluggish recovery possible a recession.

    • I agree with Brzezinski that in the immediate aftermath of a US retrenchment, the world will become apolar with the more powerful countries building up spheres of influence. But I disagree that there will be no clearly dominating power by 2025; I think it’s almost certain it will be China.

      On Iran: If it were just up to the US, I agree that the chances of war would be next to zero. Israel, however, has other priorities. Most of the costs of Iranian retaliation will be borne by the world, including the US, and not Israel directly; on the other hand, should Iran try to block the Strait of Hormuz, the US will also have no choice but to go for full-scale bombing aimed at military destruction and if possibly regime change. Eventually, Israel’s biggest nuclear threat (and sponsor of Hezbollah) is paralyzed, or even removed entirely. Additionally, the move will probably wreck any chances Obama has for re-election, with the result that a more Israel-friendly Republican comes to power. It’s cynical, but Israel has the ability to force the US’ hand and the case can be made that it would be in its own interests to exploit it.

      • Every analysis I have read concurs there is at least 50% chance that Israel will attack Iran within the next couple of months. The aim would be a “surgical” attack against Iraninan nukes. But could it succeed? Previously, the Israelis launched a cyber-attack against Iranian nuclear facilities (infected them with a computer “worm”) This was a successful attack and set Iraninan nuke program back approx. one year. But Iranians plugged on, cleaned out the worm, and continued with their program. They lost one year. Now, unless they are bluffing, Iranians are back on track and have reportedly dug their nukes in very deep, too deep even for the bunker-busting bombs that (reliable reports say) U.S. has already shipped to Israel.

      • I wonder what your opinion is of this counterclaim to the idea of China’s unstoppable rise:

        http://www.atimes.com/atimes/China/MK22Ad01.html

  5. About Ukraine – I would say all bets are off about it joining the customs union. There are too many uncertainties given the parliamentary elections. Yanukovch is about as unpopular as Yushchenko was before his defeat; much too unpopular to even make cheating feasible. Yet, he has no choice but to try to hold onto power (the alternative will be almost certain arrest or exile). However, he does not command the loyalty of the army, and I don’t imagine any chance whatsoever of a pro-Yanukovich invasion from Russia. Besides, the whole point of holding onto power is to hold onto the resources, something that would be shaky with the customs union.

    I have no idea what will happen there, so I wouldn’t bet on Ukraine joining (or not joining) the customs union..

    • I tend to agree. The countries slated to join the Eurasian Union have been consistently uninterested in associating with Europe. The large pro-EU constituency in Ukraine, both on the level of popular opinion and in the ranks of officialdom, including even political figures like Yanukovich who have been traditionally identified as pro-Russian, has no parallels in Belarus and Kazakhstan. Likewise, Ukrainian nationalism is much more of a political force than Belarusian or Kazakhstani nationalism, and in many ways is strongly opposed to Russian presence–a move towards the Eurasian Union could destabilize Ukraine on regional lines, and I don’t think any of the local players want that. I’m not sure that many of the Ukrainian oligarchs etc would be interested in the Eurasian Union inasmuch as it would undermine their power in favour of a Russia-dominant Eurasia.

      Muddling through seems more likely to me, with Ukrainian elites trying to engage with the European Union and the Russian sphere at once.

      • Two things are relentlessly clear:

        1) Ukraine’s major exporters are not particularly profitable without subsidized energy. Beets just aren’t enough to pay the bills, especially when competing with the EU’s massively subsidized agriculture sector.

        2) The West will defend Ukrainian independence to the last Ukrainian, and will do anything for Ukraine except write checks.

        However, you are correct that Ukrainian Nationalists would rather have Ukraine’s population decline by ~250,000 per year than accept Russia’s aid.

    • Looking at the opinion polls, it doesn’t to me seem to be so much a case of people rising up against Yanukovych as getting disillusioned with all politicians in general. His ratings and that of PoR have collapsed, but those of the others have remained haven’t benefited from it.

      I agree that the situation there seems very unstable. On the other hand, the factors that would influence it to join into Eurasian (re)integration seem far more solid: (1) Unaffordable gas prices (if he stops subsidizing them, he will lose what popularity he still retains; if he doesn’t, Ukraine goes bankrupt a year or so down the line); (2) The receding prospects of Europe, with countries like Greece and Hungary conceivably getting kicked to the curb as early as this very year.

      • Alexander Mercouris says:

        I take the diametrically opposite view of the Ukraine. I think that the weakening of Yanukovitch’s position makes it more rather than less likely that he will at some point seek to take the Ukraine into the Customs Union. In the end he has to deliver economic success and at some point the logic that this is better achieved within the Customs Union rather than outside it will become irresistible. I suspect by the way that many of the reasons for the decline in his popularity is precisely because he has disappointed many of his supporters in the eastern and southern Ukraine by not pursuing a more consistent policy of rapprochement with Russia. Taking the Ukraine into the Customs Union would be fiercely opposed in the western Ukraine but at the end of the day it is the poorest of the Ukraine’s regions and has less than 20% of its population so its ability to block a rapprochement with Moscow is limited. I am pretty sure that the central Ukraine would go along with such a decision whilst it would be popular in the eastern and southern Ukraine and would restore Yanukovitch’s popularity there.

        As for the EU, not only has popular support for EU membership fallen in the Ukraine (and in Serbia and Moldavia) but the attraction of EU membership is before long going to decline with the economic elites as well. In my opinion the single biggest attraction of EU membership to east European business elites is that it gives them access to the EU structural funds, the extent of which is enormous and never discussed. After 2013 the Germans who put up most of the money have made clear that they are not prepared to go on doing so and the extent of EU structural funding will start to decline. From that moment the attractions of EU membership to the Ukrainian (and Serbian and Moldavian) business elite will fall.

        By the way I am not sure I understand the point about the army. Surely it is not being suggested that Yanukovitch is planning to declare himself some sort of dictator through a military coup? I do not see any possibility of that at all and I am sure the thought has never occurred to him. Or is it being suggested that he might the need the army to suppress a secessionist movement in the western Ukraine in case the western Ukraine rebels against a decision to take the Ukraine into the Customs Union?

        • Very good point about where the opinion shifts originate. The western BS narrative is that any opposition to Yanukovitch is automatically pro Washington. Given that over two thirds of Ukrainians were opposed to joining NATO under Yuschenko it is quite clear that the “un-west” part of Ukraine is of primary importance. And the 10 million ethnic Russians are not enough to account for the lack of love for Washington in Ukraine.

          The threat of western Ukraine seceding may be someone’s wet dream but it is not reality. Halichina is not the whole of western Ukraine and there are plenty of people there who are not foaming at the mouth Russia haters. As you describe, it is a poor region and if it cleaves off then it becomes a toilet. It is apparent by now that western interests don’t control Ukraine’s economy and without this tool Washington can only stage rent-a-crowd disturbances. With Yanukovitch they really have a hard time trying to pull the exit poll hoax, their puppet (Yuschenko) lost in spite of holding all the levers of power including outright intimidation and manipulation of the constitutional court.

          • 2/3 of Ukrainians oppose NATO membership (something that Tymoshenko has not pushed) but when it comes to EU vs. Eurasia the results are much more mixed; the last poll says that pro-EU sentiments have overtaken pro-Eurasian sentiments (which now have the stench of the deeply unpopular Yanukovich on them).

            And Galicia tops quality-of-life surveys in spite of its “poverty.”

        • It is a comforting myth by some Russians that only Galicians have issues with integration with Russia and trhat 80% of Ukraine wants to integrate with Russia. In reality the breakdown is more like 50/50. While central Ukrainians are not militantly anti-Russian (and not chauvinistically anti-Russian) they have consistantly voted “Orange” in all of the recent presidential and parliamentary elections. Yanukovich is despised in Kiev nearly as much as he is despised in Lviv.

          One thing that Yanukovich’s presidency has done, is it has led to modestly increased support for EU membership relative to Eurasian Union membership among Ukrainians.

          Here is an article (Russian-language) about pro-EU and pro-Customs Union attitudes:

          http://news.zn.ua/POLITICS/tret_ukraintsev_-_protiv_vstupleniya_v_es-93742.html

          In early December, 45% of Ukraine’s people supported integration with the EU, 34.2% opposed it. 37.4% of Ukrainians felt that they’ll personally benefit if Ukraine joins the EU, while 26.5% felt that they’ll be harmed by it. In contrast, 27% of Ukrainians felt that they will benefit if they join the Eurasian Customs Union, while 23.5% felt they will be harmed by it.

          Here’s a tracking of opinion poll results for pro-EU and anti-EU feelings:

          http://www.razumkov.org.ua/eng/poll.php?poll_id=387

          The pro is currently above 50%, anti below 30%.

          • As you say, most polls give 50% for and 30% against the EU. But let’s compare with polls where they have to choose or compare between the EU or the EEC. This poll gives 45% support (vs. 33% for the EU), and this poll gives 58% for and 20% against (vs. 51% for and 27% against for the EU). And this poll gives 50% to the EEC vs. 36% to the EU.

            So let’s for the moment agree relatively speaking support for joining the EU and the EEC is about the same (though the above indicates there may be a slight to moderate edge in favor of the EEC).

            The second big question is one of feasibility. Even if everything was going swimmingly, Ukraine would need at least a decade to join the EU (assuming all the Tymoshenko, etc. issues are immediately resolved). And on the other side of the aisle, there are now mainstream doubts whether and in what form the EU itself will survive in to 2020. Keeping support for this project steady for years on end will be very hard. On the other hand, it would get into the EEC almost on the same day it said it wanted to.

            • It’s important to consider the regional differences. In the first poll you cite, 63% of Western Ukrainians prefer EU vs. 12% EEC; in Central Ukraine (including, of course, the capital and largest most prosperous city) it’s 40% EU vs. 36% EEC; in the South and East it’s 62% and 73%, respectively. The latter regions are more densely populated than is Western Ukraine so the total numbers give a slight edge to the EEC but geograpically it’s about 50/50.

              About feasibility – you are probably correct, although assoication agreements etc. are quite feasible.

              Ironically, if Tymoshenkop were in charge and if she were rejected by the EU on some pretext (quite likely) the alternative might have gone down better with Ukrainians. But now it looks like the fault of no EU membership is Yanukovich’s personally, not the EU’s, and the alternative is linked to this deeply unpopular man. If indeed EEC membership is the only way to preserve Ukraine’s economy, Tymoshenko could have sold it this way. Yanukovich can’t.

          • By the way a quick glance at some of the other articles from that website seems to indicate it has a strong bias towards the EU and a strong bias against Putin and the Eurasian Union.

            For instance here:

            http://www.razumkov.org.ua/eng/expert.php?news_id=2720

            which contradicts this:

            http://www.razumkov.org.ua/eng/expert.php?news_id=3222

            as the implicit assumption is that one supranational union (the EU) will preserve Ukraine’s independence while another supranational union (the Eurasian Union) will not. That’s really odd logic since the EU has shown an increasing trend of handing more powers to Brussels and with Ukraine being unable to opt out of most EU agreements if it ever joined; for instance it could never opt out of joining the euro as all new EU members are required to adopt it. Meanwhile the Eurasian Union has not been fleshed out yet so one cannot say for certain that Ukraine would lose more independence under the Eurasian Union than under the Eu.

            • The EEC is dominated by one state, with a history of domination in the region, while the EU is comprised of many states. Demographically, politically and economically, Germany or even Germany plus France are not as dominant in the EU as Russia is in the EEC.

              • “Demographically, politically and economically, Germany or even Germany plus France are not as dominant in the EU as Russia is in the EEC.”

                Have you been following the euro-zone crisis lately? Because it seems as though Germany and France don’t agree with you there. Merkel just has to say “jump” and the rest respond “how high?”. Not even Italy’s government was able to withstand pressure (political and economic) from the Franco-German duo to put things in order and caved in to allow the formation of a government that would do the things asked of it.

              • As far as I understand those countries all owe German banks a lot of money.

                Do you really think that Russia would be less dominant over Ukraine within a Eurasian Union than Germany would be? Ukraine’s industries and entire economy would be absorbed by Russia’s (as would its energy network etc.), it would host Russian military bases, Russian would become the second state language (and probably de facto the primary official language) and the pro-Western 50% of the country would become permantently marginalized, no longer 50% of a country but now 12% of a much larger country. There would be no Franco-German equivalent domnance of Ukraine within the EU.

      • Tymoshenko’s party has only benefitted very modestly lately but actually tops the Party of Regions (something like 16 percent for Tymoshenko vs. 13% Yanukovich). There is the rise of the pro-EU UDAR party of the boxer Klitschko and Yatsenuk’s (also pro-West) party. While Tymoshenko hasn’t benefited much herself, various other pro-Western parties have. The “pro-Western” part of the pie has grown, even though Tymoshenko’s particular slice has not, much. (By “pro-West” I do not mean pro-NATO, but pro-EU). If the door is shut on the EU, the perception will be that this was Yanukovich’s fault and not something that the EU wanted all along.

        • Just to add to my comment – Yanukovich has done more to promote anti-Russian sentiment in Ukraine than Yushchenko ever could have dreamed of doing.

          That being said, and to reiterate, there are so many factors in Ukraine pulling in different directions that I would not guess if Ukraine would join the customs union or would not join it.

          • Alexander Mercouris says:

            Dear AP,

            I have just checked your tracking poll and it seems to me that if anything it tends to confirm that Ukrainian support for EU membership is tending to fall. It appears that it peaked at over 60% in 2002, there have been ups and downs since, but that overall the trend is down and is now 45% in December.

            As for Ukrainian views of the Eurasian Union the polls to my mind simply show that Ukrainians feel less strongly about it than they do about the EU. Specifically there is less support for the Eurasian Union than there is for the EU but also less opposition to the Eurasian Union than there is to the EU. This is hardly surprising given that we are talking about something that until a few days ago and in contrast to the EU did not even exist. In a few years time if/when the Eurasian Union/Customs Union becomes a going concern things could become very different.

            As for political divisions, it is absolutely correct that central Ukrainians have consistently voted for the Orange parties. That however surely makes my point. Since Yanukovitch never won in the central regions the fall in his popularity has to be explained by a fall in support for him in the pro Russian eastern and southern regions. That surely is not the result of his pursuing pro Russian policies. On the contrary it is surely more likely because of his failure to do so. The fact that the fall in Yanukovitch’s support has been in the pro Russian eastern and southern Ukraine also surely in part explains why the main Orange parties have been unable to capitalise on it. By the way this also suggests that if Yanukovitch pursued policies that appealed more strongly to his eastern and southern political base his popularity would recover rather quickly. This might be another reason why Yanukovitch might decide that rapprochement with Russia by joining the Customs Union inn the end was the right policy for him.

            Lastly, my comments about the central Ukrainians were about the lengths they would go to oppose joining the Eurasian Union/Customs Union not about whether they would support Yanukovitch. I am pretty sure that they would go along with it precisely for the reasons you say. About the western Ukrainians I am less sure though on balance I tend to agree with Kirill and I too think a secessionist movement in the western Ukraine is unlikely.

            • The graph shows that EU sentiment peaked in 2002 at about 65%, reached a low of about 41% in late 2005, then increased to 54% following the Orange Revolution, steadily declined to 43% in late 2009, jumped to 57% a year later, dropped to 48% in April last year, and since then has risen to about 51% by October with a rising trajectory. The line it is just above, is 49%. How do you figure it is 45% in December based on that tracking graph?

              Comparing EU to EEC, you make a valid point. However, about 10% more Ukrainians feel they will benefit more from the EU than feel they will benefit from the EEC, yet only about 3% of Ukrainians feel they will be harmed by EU membership than feel they will be harmed by EEC membership. This suggests that although the EEC is indeed less well-known, it is still seen as more harmful in that poll (otherwise the gap would be equal).

              About support – the latest polls show that the Orange “pie” is growing. While Tymoshenko has not benefited much herself, other pro-Western parties have risen significantly. Yatsenuk’s party has, and the boxer Klitschko has now appeared as a significant political force.

              Parliamentary poll:

              http://www.kyivpost.com/news/politics/detail/119699/

              The Batkivschyna Party is strengthening its leadership in the electoral sympathies of Ukrainians against the backdrop of a further decline in the rating of its main competitor – the ruling Party of Regions, according to a poll conducted by the Razumkov Center from Dec. 9 to Dec.16.

              According to the survey, if the elections to the Verkhovna Rada were held in the near future, the Batkivschyna Party would get support from 15.8% of all respondents (or 21.4% of those who are planning to participate in parliamentary elections), the Party of Regions – 13.9% (18.5%), the Front for Change Party- 9.6% (12.7%), the Communist Party of Ukraine – 5.3% (5.7%), and Vitaliy Klychko’s UDAR Party – 5.1% (6.5%).

              Some 3.6%, or 4.9% of those who intend to participate in the elections, would vote for the Svoboda Party, and 3.6% (4.6%) would support the Strong Ukraine Party.
              ————-
              So among likely voters the split is 45.5% Western-oriented parties versus 28.8% Russian-oriented ones – a very dramatic difference from the generally even split in the past!

              Presidential poll:

              A total of 16.3% of the respondents surveyed said they would vote for Tymoshenko and 13.3% said they would vote for Yanukovych if presidential elections were held in Ukraine this coming Sunday.

              A total of 10.7% of the respondents said they would vote for Arseniy Yatseniuk, leader of the Front for Change party, for Vitaliy Klychko, leader of the party UDAR, and the Ukrainian Communist Party leader Petro Symonenko would get 4.8% of the votes each, and Sergiy Tigipko, leader of the party Strong Ukraine, would get 4.4% of the votes.

              A total of 10.7% of the respondents said they would vote against all candidates, 11.9% said they would not vote at all, and 14.7% were un decided.
              ————–

              So it seems that although the Eat and South remain mostly Russia-oriented, the pro-Western parties are now filling at least some of the vacuum in East/Southern Ukraine. The Communist pick-up of angry eastern/southern Ukrainian voters has been far more modest.

              • Alexander Mercouris says:

                Dear AP,

                Thank you for all this polling material, which like that in your previous comment has been helpful.

                I got the 45% figure from one of your comments. I presumed it was the most up to date.

                For the rest it seems to me that the mix of opinion polls you provide tends to bear out the conclusion that the Party of the Regions has lost support but that no other party has filled the gap. Tymoshenko’s party appears to be polling at around its usual level or even slightly below with other parties picking up points here and there but no party mounting a successful challenge. I do not think by the way that it makes sense of Ukrainian politics any longer to lump together what are actually quite disparate parties in a single Orange or pro western “pie”. This suggests to me that the potential for the Party of the Regions to recover support is certainly there. As for the Communists they became a minor party some time ago and they have not mounted an effective challenge to the Party of the Regions for some time.

                By the way in any discussion of Ukrainian preferences as between the EU and the EEC it is important to remember that all the main Ukrainian political parties and the Ukrainian political establishment as a whole up to now has supported integration with the EU. By contrast none of the main Ukrainian parties formally supports membership of the EEC. Given that this is so it is suggestive that support for the EEC is as high as it is.

              • Hi Alexander,

                The various “pro-Western” (or “anti-Yanukovich”) parties – Tymoshenko’s Batkivshchyna, Yatsenuk’s Front for Change, UDAR, Svoboda – which in the latest polls have over 45% support (vs. under 30% for the pro-Yanukovich parties) do march together and talk about uniting against Yanukovich, so it does make sense to lump them together (Svoboda is a bit apart from the other three). Collectively, these parties now have more support relative to the pro-Russian side than at any recent time. And the trend is that they are gaining more and more ground. This is what will make the next elections interesting. These parties should collectively easily win over 50%, and perhaps over 60%, of the parliament, by a margin too great to be overcome by cheating. What will Yanukovich do? What can he do? He will surely have to do something, because his defeat will be a real threat to him…

        • Many Ukrainians have a very good reason for wanting to join EU, the visa-free travel and migrating West for better-paying job, and so on. For that segment that wants to join EU but not NATO, is that even an option? I do not believe it is, I believe the two go together, unfortunately.

    • Whoa, wait a minute…are you saying Yanukovych’s popularity ratings are hovering around 4-6%? Because that was Yushchenko’s popularity ratings before his defeat if I’m not mistaken.

      • Yanukovich is approaching Yushchenko’s level…he’s down to 13%. He may not hit 5% because his electorate doesn’t have as many alternatives to turn to (Yushchenko’s former supporters could move onto Tymoshenko, Svoboda, Yatsenuk and now Klitschko. Yanukovich’s just have the Communists or Tyhypko).

    • Okay, so this is a general reply to the issue of Ukraine at the crossroads:

      “Ironically, if Tymoshenkop were in charge and if she were rejected by the EU on some pretext (quite likely)”

      I take the opposite view. The EU never rejected Yushchenko despite his crackpot ways (which could never have gotten Ukrainian membership of the EU) and I doubt they would reject Tymoshenko as the EU is quite clearly playing politics with Ukraine – they talk about the rule of law being a cornerstone of eligibility for EU membership (and a foundation of of the EU) but then pressure Yanukovych to violate the judiciary’s independence by letting Tymoshenko off the hook.

      “the alternative might have gone down better with Ukrainians. But now it looks like the fault of no EU membership is Yanukovich’s personally,”

      Well for those people for whom Yanukovych was always unpopular the frostier relations with the EU would look like his fault, but since half of the country never liked Yanukovych to begin with and likewise only about half want entry into the EU (I wouldn’t be surprised if those “halves” overlapped greatly and those who want EU entry never liked Yanukovych in the first place) I don’t see how more people are going to become suddenly anti-Eurasian Union and more pro-EU because of it. Despite the collapse in support for Yanukovych, , support for both the EU and Eurasian Union seem to consistently hold at between 35-50% of respondents depending on the poll. As Alexander has pointed out it seems more likely that Yanukovych has simply lost the support of his base because he has attempted to straddle the divide. In so doing he has pandered to people who wouldn’t give him the time of day normally but has ignored those who actually liked what he seemed to have stood for. I suspect that if he were to rediscover his base before the next election we would see support rise again.

      “Just to add to my comment – Yanukovich has done more to promote anti-Russian sentiment in Ukraine than Yushchenko ever could have dreamed of doing”

      But I remember AK posting some results of some comprehensive polls done by some Western pollster on his facebook site which shows zero evidence of any rise in anti-Russian sentiment. Indeed while Yanukovych is now unpopular, the opinions of Russia in those polls and in polls I’ve seen from 2008 remain essentially unchanged. This reinforces the notion that it is not Yanukovych’s (pre-election) ideas and stance that are unpopular but Yanukovych himself. Indeed given the poll figures for politicians cited by AP and AK and others and the acknowledgement that Tymoshenko’s ratings have barely budged from being in the teens it seems that what has really happened is that Yushchenko, Yanukovych and Tymoshenko combined have done more to promote anti-politician sentiment and voter apathy in Ukraine than any mutual opponent of all of them could ever have dreamed of. When all political parties and politicians are polling support in the teens then nobody is a winner.

      “It is a comforting myth by some Russians that only Galicians have issues with integration with Russia and trhat 80% of Ukraine wants to integrate with Russia. In reality the breakdown is more like 50/50.”

      Actually based on the polls it would seem that the breakdown is more like:

      20% opposed (the Galicians mainly)
      30% not really bothered about it but which generally seem to prefer independence with good relations with Russian (central Ukrainians)
      50% supportive in some way or another (free trade, customs union, full re-union)

      “How do you figure it is 45% in December based on that tracking graph?”

      I think Alexander was reading the article you posted before you gave the link for the tracking graph. That article confusing is published in December 2011 and gives the 45% BUT only later mentions that the 45% figure is from a poll conducted over a year before in November 2009. I was confused too until I read the article. Even you seem to have been caught by the article because you wrote: “In early December, 45% of Ukraine’s people su…..”

      In any event an actual December 2011 poll has EU entry support at 40%: http://www.kyivpost.com/news/nation/detail/119037/

      So as I said before support for both the EU and Eurasian Union seems to consisently hover between 35% and 50% each. I’m not surprised since this is Ukraine we are talking about and it held two referenda in 1990/1991 which gave similarly confusing results – the independence referendum where a majority supported independence and the union referendum where a majority supported the continuation of the USSR in a new form.

      “About support – the latest polls show that the Orange “pie” is growing. While Tymoshenko has not benefited much herself, other pro-Western parties have risen significantly. Yatsenuk’s party has, and the boxer Klitschko has now appeared as a significant political force.”

      I don’t know how you got that the Orange “pie” is growing from those results. The split between the “Orange” vote and the “Blue” vote has basically been even going all the way back to 2002. When you add up the new “Orange” parties you get (by your own calculations): “45.5% [support for] Western-oriented parties” This is not dramatically different from 2004 (46-51%), 2006 (36.24%), 2007 (44.86%), and 2010 (45.47%). If it were REALLY growing then the Orange parties would be making inroads into the South and East (which they apparently aren’t) and their support should have passed 50% comfortably. Rather what has happened is as Alexander said, Yanukovych’s Party of Regions has lost support in its base area (about half of it’s support) so that it ends up with 13-28% support. It seems quite coincidental that the PoR has lost about 20% support and about 20% think that Ukrainian entry into the EU would be harmful to Ukraine. I suspect it is more or less the same people who think EU entry is bad who have turned away from Yanukovych precisely because he has continued to press for EU entry publicly. The prospects of an Orange win though might be enough to have these disillusioned supporters come back out to the polls for the PoR though even without Yanukovych and the PoR moving firmly towards the Eurasian Union as they may well see the prospects of an Orange win as worse than muddling along with a two-faced Yanukovych (in essence their anti-Orange sentiments may trump their feelings of being ignored by the PoR especially with the lack of any alternatives to the PoR for them to vote for).

      I would not be surprised though if rather than a strong Orange coalition in the next elections we see what amounts to an attempt to herd cats among the Western-oriented parties. Most Ukrainian politicians seem to have a Napoleon-complex and thus find it practically impossible to actually cooperate as equals towards common goals (think of how Yushchenko and Tymoshenko got along) and instead seem to feel the need to dominate each other. They may cooperate NOW in order to to gain a majority, but once that has happened just sit back with some popcorn as the sparks between them are bound to fly. If they REALLY were going to cooperate they would actually merge much like the 5 pre-PoR parties did in 2001 to form the Party of Regions and much like Yulia Tymoshenko’s Bloc did over a much longer period between 2001 and 2011. They still differ enough in aims and leading personalities that there seems to be no movement to form a single political party.

      “Yanukovich is approaching Yushchenko’s level…he’s down to 13%. He may not hit 5% because his electorate doesn’t have as many alternatives to turn to (Yushchenko’s former supporters could move onto Tymoshenko, Svoboda, Yatsenuk and now Klitschko. Yanukovich’s just have the Communists or Tyhypko).”

      Given that most of these politicians are only likely to cooperate in the short term it would seem more accurate to say that ALL politicians are approaching Yushchenko levels of support. When Tymoshenko can only get 16% support despite attempt to portray herself as a wrongfully imprisoned political martyr it shows that not many Ukrainians seem to hold any one particular political figure in high regard. Indeed given the progressive opinion polling documented on this wikipedia article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ukrainian_presidential_election,_2010 it seems that what has occurred is that life has returned to the normal inter-election routine. Note that in those progressive opinion polls Tymoshenko’s ratings hovered between 15-20% (excluding a potential second round vote) after 2008 but she still managed over 45% support in 2010 in the second round. Likewise Yanukovych’s ratings (excluding potential second round voting) never even hit 35% once and was under 30% for most of the time between 2007 and 2010 and indeed at times dipped into the teens.

      • I should add that rather than the Orange pie growing, what seems to have happened is that the Orange slice is being redistributed among newer parties and faces. So whereas Tymoshenko used to poll 30-45% around 2010 and after she now polls 16% and other parties have taken up the slack….

        • I’ll repeat my other comment – the poll for the parliamentary elections shows the Orange parties (I use this term as shorthand for pro-Western; Yushchenko’s party which actually used the Orange color is totally off the radar now) with 45%, the Blue parties with 28%. The other 27% are, presumably, undecided. In past elections most of the undecideds in the polls ended up voting Orange in the elections. Now it may be different due to Yanukovich’s collapse. Splitting the undecideds evenly, it’ll be 58.5% Orange and 41.5% Blue – a much larger Orange margin of victory than in any previous election (and keep in mind that the trend has been increasing; Blue may not have hit bottom yet). For the first time, the Party of Regions no longer even has a plurality.

          So the Orange pie, in addition to beng more splintered, is also bigger. This may be due to two reasons: the Blues have lost support in Central Ukraine, making that region more Galicia-like due to anti-Blue backlash; or, Orange has made inroads in the East and South.

          • And as I pointed out 45% is about what the Orange parties have been getting for nearly 10 years so nothing out of the ordinary for them.

            “the Blue parties with 28%. The other 27% are, presumably, undecided. ”

            I said previously that Yanukovych had lost about 20% support and that VERY coincidentally it is about the same percent who feel that Ukrainian membership of the EU is a bad thing. As 1+1 = 2 it is not hard to imagine that the 20+% who now show no preference are more or less the same 20+% who disagree with EU membership for Ukraine and are thus unlikely to support any Orange party and feel betrayed by Yanukovych.

            “In past elections most of the undecideds in the polls ended up voting Orange in the elections.”

            I would really like to see you post some analysis and/or sources on this because if that is the case then Yanukovych must have been carrying out massive and systematic fraud in just about every election if he could move from having support hovering between 19-30% before an election to suddenly reaching 45-49%. That alone would imply that he picked up (on average) 20% support.

            “Splitting the undecideds evenly, it’ll be 58.5% Orange and 41.5% Blue”

            And the reasoning behind this is what? That the undecided are going to flip a coin to see who they support? Because that’s the only way the undecideds would evenly split their vote unless the Orange parties genuinely catered to what at least half of the undecideds wanted in a political representative. Unless you can show how it is that the 20-25% who generally think Ukrainian membership of the EU is a bad thing are likely to end up voting for any Orange party for which EU membership is an avowed goal (and for some NATO membership is also an avowed goal) and which generally don’t put as much stock in having good relations with Russia (though unlike Yushchenko they don’t seem to be trying to having bad relations with Russia) I don’t see how you can get an even split among the undecided who just happen to form more or less the same percentage as those for whom EU membership is a bad thing.

            For instance, let’s take a look at those numbers:

            “Batkivschyna Party would get support from 15.8% of all respondents (or 21.4% of those who are planning to participate in parliamentary elections), the Party of Regions – 13.9% (18.5%), the Front for Change Party- 9.6% (12.7%), the Communist Party of Ukraine – 5.3% (5.7%), and Vitaliy Klychko’s UDAR Party – 5.1% (6.5%).”

            BUT we have seen numbers like these before except for the UDAR party:

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ukrainian_presidential_election,_2010

            From 2008 to 2010, Yatsenyuk and his Front for Change party polled between 2.6% (at the start) and 14.5% (highest) with an average of 8.9% support. Note that these percentages are not only for those planning to participate in parliamentary elections but from polls where respondents could also answer that they would not vote. In the 2010 election Yatsenyuk polled 6.96% in the first round and his highest results in any particular regions were 8-9% in Kiev and 11% in Lviv: http://www.pravda.com.ua/articles/2010/01/18/4630133/

            The Batkivshchyna Party (Tymoshenko’s party) also has results falling in line with those progressive polls from 2007 to 2010 where Tymoshenko’s party got 15.3% at the lowest and 20.5% at the highest (excluding polls which ask the respondents about a theoretical second round)

            Even reading up on the UDAR party (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/UDAR_of_Vitaliy_Klychko) we see that they are only in talks about merging with Civil Position ahead of elections even though it is open to merging with other parties as well.

            It is also interesting to note that the last time ANY candidate/party got more than 51% of the vote in any election was Kuchma back in 1999 and he was not definitely “pro-Western” or “pro-Russian” but successfully portrayed himself as “independent”. He was the only one able to pick up majorities in both parts of Western Ukraine and in parts of Eastern Ukraine.

            “So the Orange pie, in addition to beng more splintered, is also bigger.”

            It is not. Unless you can show how the previous percentages I posted are wrong then the only figure you have posted for their support shows that they have about the same support they have always had for about a decade.

            “This may be due to two reasons: the Blues have lost support in Central Ukraine, making that region more Galicia-like due to anti-Blue backlash; or, Orange has made inroads in the East and South.”

            You have no evidence of either of these possibilities. Not even circumstantial evidence. And when has the Party of Regions ever enjoyed real major support in Central Ukraine? As far as I can tell from the elections results available they never have. And I’ve yet to see any poll result showing that any Orange party has made inroads into the South and East. The ONLY firm conclusions that one can draw from the polls you posted is that the Party of Regions has lost support and the place where it had the most support (indeed overwhelming support) was in the South and East. A loss of support there (without any gains by any other parties) is the best possible explanation for the Party of Regions losing support while the Orange parties have kept the same support that they have had for almost a decade. If the Orange parties had been making inroads into the South and East then there is no way they would only have 45% support unless they have also lost support in their traditional voter bases of the West and Central Ukraine.

            • Your assumption that none of the 27% of the undecided voters will vote Orange is convenient but not very realistic. In the past, undecideds have leaned Orange at election time. For example, in the last presidential election, polls gave Yanukovich 46.7%, Tymoshenko 30%, against all 13.2%, not sure 6.5%. The final result was Yanukovich about 49% and Tymoshenko about 46% – she picked up almost all the undecided or againt all votes.

              What is a happening now, is that Orange is already at about 45%, even WITHOUT the undecideds!

              About your idea that somehow all or most of the 20% who are anti-EU constitue those undecied voters. This is simply not realistic. Many of them support the Communists (who get about 5% of the people’s support, I included them in the Blue totals) and many continue to support the Party of Regions. I don’t think that you suggest that all or most of the Party of Regions’ current supporters are pro-EU?

              In the last few elections the Blues got about 25%-30% of the vote in central Ukraine. It is likely that this has now decreased. In terms of posible Orange inroads in Eastern UKraine – int he laast local elections, despite administrative resources favoring the Party of Regions, Tymoshenko’s party nearly won the mayor of Kharkiv, losing by .63%

              • “Your assumption that none of the 27% of the undecided voters will vote Orange is convenient but not very realistic.”

                I said it was unlikely they would pick up much of the 27% since that 27% looks suspiciously similar to the percentage of respondents who express views which are the opposite of what most Orange parties stand for.

                ” In the past, undecideds have leaned Orange at election time. For example, in the last presidential election, polls gave Yanukovich 46.7%, Tymoshenko 30%, against all 13.2%, not sure 6.5%.”

                Interesting that you would use polls in which respondents were asked who they would vote for in a second round ballot (that is where those figures are from) when the polls cited before in this discussion do not (especially since in a second round voters are presented with a much more restricted choice than would happen in a first round which is more akin to the choices they would have for a parliamentary election). For instance in the same poll that you refer to the first round support was:

                Yanukovych 33.3%, Tymoshenko 16.6%, against all 9% and unsure 9%.

                Indeed the same Ramzukov Centre once had a poll where Yanukovych got 19.8% support and Tymoshenko got 15.8% support.

                We can look at other polls and see this was not the case. For instance in June 2009 they had:

                first round support:

                Yanukovych – 26.8%
                Tymoshenko – 16.2%
                Yatsenyuk – 12.3%
                Lytvyn – 3.9%
                Yushchenko – 2.1%
                Symonenko – 3.5%
                Bohoslovska – 3.0%
                Tyahnybok (Svoboda) – 2.0%
                Against all – 8%
                (Decided included those who decided against all = 77.8%)
                Undecided – 9.4%
                Will not vote – 8.9%

                One could expect supporters for Lytvyn, Symonenko and Bohoslovska to transfer support to Yanukovych (so he should get another 10.4%) and supporters for the others to transfer support to Tymoshenko (so she should get another 16.4% support). The pro-western parties already enjoyed 32% and pro-Russian parties already enjoyed 37% support in a first round according to that poll which fits in with the results that they achieved for most of the past decade which show pro-western and pro-Russian parties enjoying a more or less even split among the electorate, with each set getting 35-45% (it fluctuates but falls within that band).

                For the second round support these were the poll results:

                Yanukovych – 38.8% (+12%)
                Tymoshenko – 28.8% (+12.6%)
                Against all – 16.6%
                (Decided = 84.2%)
                Undecided – 6.8%
                Will not vote – 9%

                However in ALL of the polls we have discussed over these two posts, the turnout would be expected to be 75-95% (even in the poll you cited the percentage who said they would definitely not vote only amounted to 3.6%). But what happened in reality? Well in 2010 the turnout was 67% for the first round and 69% for the second round. Which meant 26% of those who even gave an opinion in the poll you cited couldn’t bother to come out and vote. That’s going to affect the final numbers massively

                I would expect that more or less the same thing to occur in the future where more people just stay home. In fact I would not be surprised if in the most likely circumstance the 27% who haven’t expressed support for either the Orange parties or the Party of Regions just didn’t bother to vote at all. We might then see a turnout of 50% or less, which would be one way in which the Orange parties would get over 50% of the vote.

                ” The final result was Yanukovich about 49% and Tymoshenko about 46% – she picked up almost all the undecided or againt all votes.”

                No, she picked up most of the votes from the other pro-Western candidates. The “against all” vote in the 2010 election went from 542,819 votes (or 2.20%) in the first round to 1,113,055 votes (or 4.36%). Obviously mre people were disgruntled about those two poor choices for candidates by the second round.

              • “many continue to support the Party of Regions”

                How does it make any sense that the anti-EU crowd continue to support the Party of Regions if the PoR has officially embarked on a pro-EU membership government policy since forming the government in 2010?

                Since the communists get 5% support usually nowadays but the anti-EU crowd usually makes up about 25% in polls, how do you account for the remaining 20%?

              • “I don’t think that you suggest that all or most of the Party of Regions’ current supporters are pro-EU?”

                I’m sure some are. Probably the set that still supports them. Definitely the set that still supports them are either pro-EU or neutral on the EU.

              • I bothered to calculate similat pe-election polls from the parliamentary elections in 2006:

                http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ukrainian_parliamentary_election,_2006#Razumkov_Centre_Poll

                In the last poll,the three Orange parties (Tymoshenko, Our Ukraine, and the Socialists – this was before they switched sides) polled 35.9% collectively, while the Party of Regions, Communists, and Progressive Socialists collectively 35.4%. 14.9% were undecided.

                In the final eelctions the Blue Parties received 38.73% of the vote and the Orange ones 41.93%. The Orange parties picked up about double the undecided votes than did the Blue parties, come election time. (+6.03 vs. +3.33, respectively).

                Note that in that election, which produced a slim Orange majority (until the Socialists switched sides after the elections) the pre-election polls showing Orange support were about 10 percentage points lower than they are now!

                Again, I do find it odd that you claim that currently the Party of Regions supporters consists almost entirely of people being pro-EU or not opposed to it.

              • Also, if theoretically, the 27% undecideds stayed home and only the decided ones (45% ORanfge and 28% Blue) voted, the parliamentary vote would be 61.7% Orange and 38.3% Blue. A landslide.

                And the declining Blue haven’t hit bottom yet.

      • Also, what seems to be missing from this discourse is the fact that a majority of Russians apparently want EU membership as well:

        http://www.angus-reid.com/polls/39166/half_of_russians_would_back_eu_entry/

        According to this poll (the one in the link above) in May 2010 50% of respondents favoured Russia joining the EU, 26% were opposed and 24% were unsure (this compares with December 2004 when the figures were 59%, 20% and 21% respectively)

        http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,,14771971,00.html

        According to the DW poll 54% think Russia should join the EU (but they vary on the time frame). Meanwhile 28% are unsure and 18% think Russia should not join.

        Given these facts it would seem unlikely that Putin would permanently eschew some kind of association with the EU and indeed in the Huffington Post story on the Eurasian Union proposal (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/04/vladimir-putin-eurasian-union_n_993772.html) it was stated that:

        “Putin argued that deeper integration between ex-Soviet nations shouldn’t contradict their aspirations to forge closer ties with the EU”

        Given that a majority of his own population seem to want eventual EU membership (at least as of 2010) it would seem crazy that Putin would craft an organization which conflicts with that goal.

        If anything the Eurasian Union might end up sort of like the EFTA or CEFTA (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CEFTA)/Visegrád Group and act as a stepping stone to closer integration with the EU. So in the end the Eurasian Union might end joining the EU wholesale or it might end up as part of an enlarged European Economic Area (perhaps renamed as the “Eurasian Economic Area” with the possibility of including China, Korea, Japan and India in the far future) which would then be comprised of the EU, EFTA and Eurasian Union and perhaps independent members like Turkey.

        This would be in line with Anatoly’s projection:

        “Maybe not in 2012, but in the longer term it is becoming likely that the future Europe will be multi-tier (not multi-speed). The common economic space [by which I assume he meant the EEA and not the CIS Common Economic Space] will probably continue growing, eventually merging with the Eurasian Union now coalescing in the east. However, many countries will drop out of the Eurozone..”

        Naturally it is not in the interest of the various pro-Western parties to follow this line and so they would probably ignore any comments Putin made to the effect that there is no intention for Eurasian Union membership to be incompatible with EU membership or closer association. If Yanukovych had any sense he would seize upon those comments though and the poll results in Ukraine and Russia showing support for EU membership to regain the support of the plurality or even the slim majority. But he would have to pressure Putin to talk more about how the Eurasian Union can lead to closer integration with the EU and to simply talk more about it in his speeches on it. Because then he would regain the support of the 35-50% who favour Eurasian Union membership and quite possibly pick up a few EU supporters who are not opposed to close relations with Russia (and thus achieve the straddle that he had been attempting) or at least pick up the support of some of those who are unsure about both the Eurasian Union and EU.

        • Alexander Mercouris says:

          Dear AP and Hunter,

          I was going to respond to AP’s comment but Hunter has already done so and made the same points I wanted to make. I would briefly say:

          1. The present 45% the three parties AP associates with the Orange movement are getting at the moment seems to me to be in line with the normal level of support the Orange parties tend to get. In other words there does not seem to have been a breakthrough. Hunter has analysed the opinion polls carefully and better than I could do and has described the present state of play.

          2. As to what Yanukovitch will do obviously I cannot say. Obviously he should not cheat and I do not think he will. At the end of the day the Ukraine is once again a Presidential rather than a parliamentary republic so Yanukovitch can probably co exist with a parliament with a hostile majority especially as it is not consolidated around one party. However as I have said if he wants to win the parliamentary elections or ensure that his party wins a decent share of the vote he has to re energise his own supporters who are in the pro Russian south and east. One way he could do that would be by joining the Customs Union.

          • An important point is that the 45% Orange group vs. 28% Blue group does not include about 27% undecideds/cannot says. So it does not match previous election totals. Historically the latter undecided group in polls group has trended Orange when it came to the elections (there is more diversity on the Orange side) but given Yanukovich’s collapse I wouldn’t be certain of that this time.

            Assuming that the remaining 27% split evenly, we would be looking at a parliament that would be about 57% Orange and 43% Blue. This contrasts with previous elections in which the it had been 51% Orange – 49% Blue. So the Orange pie is clearly growing…and making some inroads East. In the recent local elections Tymoshenko’s party lost Kharkiv’s mayoral race by 5%.

            I think Yanukovoch is quite capable of cheating. The problem is that the margin of his defeat may be so great that cheating becomes unfeasible.

            • Alexander Mercouris says:

              Dear AP,

              This is based on the assumption that the undecided vote would split evenly between the Blue and the Orange camps. I wonder whether that assumption is right. Yanukovitch is the government so logically as it is his popularity that has been falling it is more likely that the undecided voters lean towards him. I would be wary of making assumptions about which sides undecided voters lean towards based on historic experience given that with Yanukovitch in power the situation today is different from what it was before 2010 when Yushchenko and the Orange parties were in power.

              I would reiterate one further point, which is that though I have followed you in referring to some of the opposition parties as “Orange” parties, following the debacle of the Yushchenko Presidency the fire has gone out and in my opinion it is wrong to go on referring to these parties as an Orange movement. The fact that they share platforms and join each other in opposition rallies is not surprising given that they are all in opposition at the moment. The fact that they have not been able to unite in a single party says it all and I would not be surprised if given the nature of Ukrainian politics some of them eventually cut deals with Yanukovitch once they get elected to the Rada.

              • Alexander Mercouris says:

                Dear AP,

                Viz your last point, the situation today is very different from what it was in 2006. One should be careful about making assumptions about future Ukrainian elections on the basis of what undecided voters and/or opinion polls were saying in 2006. Incidentally I thought at the time that an obvious mistake Tymoshenko in particular was making was to take the support of the Socialists for granted. The Socialists were not in any sense an Orange party and though they were abused for defecting the criticism was unwarranted. The problem was that Yushchenko and Tymoshenko spent weeks negotiating on the formation of a government until eventually the Socialists lost patience with them both.

              • Hunter made the bold claim that almost all undecided voters would int he end vote Blue. I pointed out that the consistent pattern has been that undecided voters have heavily leaned Orange instead. Circumstances may indeed be different now,but I doubt that the pattern will utterly reverse itself.

                You are correct that “Orange” is not really accurate; I haven’t seen an alternative, however, to collectively describe the western-oriented parties opposed to the Party of Regions and their Communist allies so I’ve been using the Orange shorthand.

                All of the “Orange” parties explictly oppose Yanukovich so if one of them cut a deal after getting into the Rada it would basically be a total betrayal of their voters. It could very well happen anyways, of course, one reason why I would not predict that the EEC is not a possibility.

              • Hi Alexander,

                You wrote: “Incidentally I thought at the time that an obvious mistake Tymoshenko in particular was making was to take the support of the Socialists for granted. The Socialists were not in any sense an Orange party and though they were abused for defecting the criticism was unwarranted.”

                Here is aphoto of Socialist Party leader during the ORange Revolution, standing alongside Yulia Tymoshenko under the Orange flag in fron of the Orange crowds:

                http://euronest.blogspot.com/2010/04/ukraines-fractured-opposition.html

                It is completely understandable that the Yushhenko and Tymoshenko, and more importantly his own voters, assumed that Moroz of the Socialist Party was an “Orange” politician. Indeed, his electorate felt that the Socialist party was the center-left wing of the Orange movement. After Moroz switched sides most of his voters abandoned him for Tymoshenko’s party, considering him a traitor, and his political career was finished.

        • Excellent points. However, the EU has made clear that EEC membership will preclude EU association agreements, etc.

          The other thing to keep in mind is which course would be more destabilizing for the country. Ukraine has pursued a pro-EU course to the detriment of a union with Russia without any real disturbance in the East. If Ukraine shuts the door on European integration in favor of integration with Russia, would the western half of the country be as quiet and aquiescent?

          • “However, the EU has made clear that EEC membership will preclude EU association agreements, etc”

            Really? Can you provide a source for this?

      • “…the EU is quite clearly playing politics with Ukraine – they talk about the rule of law being a cornerstone of eligibility for EU membership (and a foundation of of the EU) but then pressure Yanukovych to violate the judiciary’s independence by letting Tymoshenko off the hook.”

        Do you really believe Ukraine’s judiciary is behaving independently in its selective prosecution of Yanukovich’s political foes?

        Please see my other comments about how the polls suggest that support for “Orange” parties is growing. The 45% Orange supporters in the poll doesn’t include 27% undecided voters in the same poll. And I doubt that all 20% of those opposed to the EU abandoned Yanukovich and that his rating would jump 20% if he went East.

        You are probably right with resepct to what an Orange coalition would look like. The Western half of the country is much more politically diverse and seems to follow a chaotic Italian or Polish model with several squabbling parties; the eastern part of the country seems to historically follow a Russian/Belarussian model with consolidated rule by one force. However all the Western-oriented parties are united in their opposition to Yanukovich and his policies.

        By anti-Russian sentiment I was unclear; sorry. I did not mean opposition to Russia or Russians but opposition to pro-Russian policies. For example, support for the Russian lack Sea Fleet extension dropped from over 50% when the deal was signed to 41% a year later.

        • “Do you really believe Ukraine’s judiciary is behaving independently in its selective prosecution of Yanukovich’s political foes?”

          This implies that:

          1. more than one of Yanukovych’s political opponents have been prosecuted

          2. that only Yanukovych’s political opponents have been prosecuted

          So perhaps you can tell us:

          a. how many politicians have actually been prosecuted (if the answer is one then point 2 above becomes irrelevant)

          b. how many politicians who are opponents have Yanukovych have been been prosecuted (if the answer is one then point 1 above also becomes irrelevant).

          I know the Western press likes to make generalities (I should know, I have to read it every day), but really, apart from Tymoshenko, who else has been prosecuted?

          I’m pretty sure almost all Ukrainian politicians are corrupt. I’m also pretty sure that despite that, Ukraine’s judiciary is quite capable of acting independently. My point though was that the EU was quite clearly being hypocritical in pressuring Yanukovych to openly intervene in a court case when he is neither judge nor jury but at the same time they espouse the idea that the executive branch must remain separate from the judicial branch. If they REALLY cared about judicial independence in Ukraine they would be calling on the judge and jury to render a fair verdict according to the laws of the land and to not be swayed by any political pressure (whether from the government, opposition or external) and would attempt to expose instances where the judiciary was displaying bias or unsound judgement. In that regard it reminds me very much of Western pressure over the Khodorkovsky case where the basic message was “he should be free” despite any evidence against him, rather than “we welcome a thief being put behind bars if he is indeed proven guilty according to fair procedures and expect that more oligarchs who broke the laws will be similarly prosecuted whether they have close ties with the government or not”.

          “For example, support for the Russian lack Sea Fleet extension dropped from over 50% when the deal was signed to 41% a year later”

          But how is that any different than other major policy platforms such as EU membership or the proposed Eurasian Union where various polls show support for both usually ranging between 35-50%?

          • Fomrer interiro minister Lutsenko has been sitting in jail for years now:

            http://zik.ua/en/news/2011/12/26/325852

            There are other cases I can dig up. Naturally no one affiliated with the Party of Regions has been imprisoned for corruption. Can you find one? Selective prosecution of political enemies by the judiciary is not judicial independence.

            • Also Yevhen Korniychuk, Tymoshenko’s First Deputy Minister of Justice. Arrested in October 2010 right after his wife gave birth.

              Anatoliy Makarenko, Head of the State Customs Service of Ukraine. Arrested June 2010.

              Ihor Didenko, First Deputy Chairman of Naftogaz. Arrested in July 2010.

              Any high profile Yanukovich allies imprisoned by the “impartial” Ukrainian judiciary?

            • Excellent! Examples. So we have Tymoshenko (arrested, tried and imprisoned), Lutsenko (in jail), Korniychuk (arrested), Makarenko (arrested) and Didenko (arrested). Alongside Kuchma (who was also arrested but in 2004 painted as a Yanukovych ally) and from an earlier time Kolesnikov and Kushnaryov (both Yanukovyvh allies arrested under the Orange government). Besides Yankovych’s own prison-stint this just seems to confirm that as I said, a lot of Ukrainian politicians are corrupt. Or at least they seem to get themselves involved in activities that authorities seem eager to arrest them. But then I guess judicial independence doesn’t really mean anything when the presiding Supreme Court judge (Onopenko) can be described in some western newspapers as a “Tymoshenko ally”.

              As I said earlier, the EU isn’t going to encourage judiciary independence in Ukraine by pressuring Yanukovych to meddle (or continue meddling) with the courts. The best thing the EU could have done would have been to appeal to the courts directly to not be swayed by any political interference and to not let political allegiances (whether to Yankuovych or Tymoshenko) get in the way of a fair judgement (whether it be conviction or acquittal).

              Remember that two wrongs don’t make a right and even if Yanukovych is interfering in the courts (as seems to be the case on the evidence you have presented), encouraging further wrongs isn’t the way to go about making Ukraine into a proper EU candidate as it sends the wrong message. Rather than sending the message to the judiciary to be independent it sends the message that it is okay for government control or interference in the courts as long as the outcome doesn’t meet the displeasure of the EU.

              • The EU is telling Yanukovich to stop pressuring the court to do his bidding. It may not be effective, but it is probably more effective to tell the presurer to stop, then to tell the judiciary to risk becoming dissidants by standing up to the pressurers. Another arrestee was a daughter of a Constitutional Court judge who had been appointed by Tymoshenko (or Yushchenko – forgot which one). He then met with Yanukovch, his daughter was released, and later the judge didn’t try for another term. In this way, Yanukovich’s “impartial” justice system is being constructed.

              • Alexander Mercouris says:

                A number of points on this thread and then I am done:

                1. We do not know whether and if so how far the popularity of the Blues will fall. As Hunter and I have said there is nothing to suggest that what we associate with the Orange parties are polling much above their usual level or have achieved a breakthrough. It is surely possible that the Blues will recover especially if Yanukovitch starts to pursue policies that are more attractive to his political base.

                2. There is absolutely nothing in the EU treaties that says that the EU cannot enter into an association agreement with a state that is a member of an organisation such as the EEC. Nor is there anything in the EU treaties for that matter that says that the EU cannot enter into an association agreement with an organisation like the EEC. On this I speak with authority since until recently I was a lawyer who has worked in the field of EU constitutional law and who has even had to take and pass exams in the subject. My brother has worked in the EU Commission and is currently an EU consultant. EU officials have been making all sorts of threats implying that membership of the EEC is incompatible with an EU association agreement but as they will know what they are saying is untrue and should be seen for what it is, which is a bluff.

                3. I think as democrats we should be uncomfortable at the suggestion that EEC membership would destabilise the Ukraine because the western Ukraine would not accept it. At the end of the day the western Ukraine accounts for no more than 20% of the Ukraine’s population. If the western Ukraine threatens to destabilise the Ukraine in order to prevent the Ukraine from doing something such as joining the EEC that the majority of Ukrainians support then such conduct is profoundly undemocratic and as democrats we should all condemn it.

                4. Tymoshenko was convicted by a Ukrainian court of what were real offencesin part based on Yushchenko’s evidence and as a result of a legal process initiated whilst Yushchenko was President. Outside pressure on the Ukrainian President to interfere with the judicial process is as Hunter absolutely correctly says unwarranted and is a gross interference in the internal affairs of the Ukraine and in the independent working of the Ukrainian judiciary. If the case was politically motivated as you say then the European Court of Human Rights, which is fast tracking Tymoshenko’s appeal, will after examining the evidence set the verdict aside and order that Tymoshenko be paid substantial compensation. Until the legal process is completed further comment about the case is inappropriate.

                5. On the subject of political interference with the Ukrainian judiciary, the most grotesque example I can think off happened during the political crisis of 2007. Yushchenko ordered the dissolution of the Rada in which Yanukovitch had a majority. Yanukovitch challenged the decision in the Constitutional Court. Most constitutional experts fel Yushchenko’s dissolution decree was unconstitutional. Yushchenko however prevented the Constitutional Court from making a decision by actually trying to unseat Constitutional Court judges who might decide the case against him. He also played a cynical game with the Constitutional Court by repeatedly purporting to revoke and then reissuing his dissolution decree obliging the Constitutional Court to restart the case again and again so as to prevent it coming to a decision. I was in correspondence at the time with a Constitutional Law Fellow at Cambridge University at the time and I can remember his outrage at what was going on. Needless to say and in marked contrast to its response to the verdict in the Tymoshenko case the EU was completely silent.

              • EU officials have been making all sorts of threats implying that membership of the EEC is incompatible with an EU association agreement but as they will know what they are saying is untrue and should be seen for what it is, which is a bluff.

                Interesting. Is there an analogy with the rhetoric that a Eurasian CES with non-WTO members Belarus and Kazakhstan would be negatively viewed (or outright unacceptable) to getting WTO membership? Funny how as soon as Russia started being serious about Eurasian (re)integration that it was accepted into that same WTO.

              • Alexander, I’ll address your points:

                1.Compare apples to apples. You are comparing the pre-election polls to final election results, which both give the same 45%. The current *pre-election* polls place the Orange parties at 45%. That’s 10% higher than in previous preelection polls (35%) in earlier elections.

                2. “EU officials have been making all sorts of threats implying that membership of the EEC is incompatible with an EU association agreement but as they will know what they are saying is untrue and should be seen for what it is, which is a bluff..” Thank you for confirming that the EU are threatening to bar Ukraine if it joins the EEC. I’ll defer to your expertise abou tthe EU officals being wrong, but since they ultimately make the decision it seems that whether they follow the letter of the law is irrelevent.

                3. Actually half of Ukraine, not 20%, does not want to join the EEC. Again, this myth that only Galicians oppose it. Galicians are the ones who are most strongly against it, but the center of the country prefers the EU also.

                4. As hunter correctly pointed out, probably every politician in Ukraine is capable of being convicted of something. The problem is that we see a pattern of selective convictions of oppostion figures. Even worse, it is of popular opposition politicians whose conviction prevents the Ukrainian people from expressing their wishes in the ballot box. Tymoshenko and Lutsenko are not Khodorkovsky, disliked by mostof the population. Their conviction really denies choice to Ukrainian voters.

                5. I agree. Yushchenko’s actions were likely unconstitutional. This does not excuse Yanukovich’s actions. Yushchenko called new elections using dubious means. Yanukovich subverted the results of those elections using dubious means. At least Yushchenko’s crime was democratic.

                Merry Christmas!

              • Alexander Mercouris says:

                Dear AP,

                Again thank you for your comments. I do not want to repeat myself or go over the same ground so I will be short.

                1. The point has been discussed fully by Hunter already.

                2. What the EU does or does not do is a matter for the EU. To say that joining the EEC absolutely precludes an association agreement with the EU is however false and those who say it know it.

                3. I did not say that central Ukrainians prefer the EEC to the EU though it seems to me that the position is not as clearcut as you say. Again Hunter has analysed the position thoroughly and I do not want to repeat what he has said. What I did say was that if the Ukraine were to join the EEC the EEC the central Ukrainians would go along with it and that if the majority of the Ukrainian people did in the end support membership of the EEC it would be anti democratic of the western Ukraine to try to prevent it.

                4. The defence of “selectivity” is of course not a defence at all. It is not grounds to let Tymoshenko go free because other politicians in the Ukraine might be corrupt just as it is not a defence of Khodorkovsky to say that other Russian businessmen are also corrupt. Following this logic would mean that no corrupt politician in the Ukraine would ever be convicted of anything for the simple reason that they are all corrupt. If Tymoshenko has been properly convicted following a fair trial and according to due process then there is no reason to set her conviction aside. If on the other hand her trial was politically motivated then the ECHR will set her conviction aside and she will go free. In the meantime her party continues to function and is preparing to participate in the pending parliamentary elections.

                4. My point was not to defend Yanukovitch but to show up the hypocrisy of the EU and the selective way it concerns itself about the independence of the Ukrainian courts. As such the emphasis of my comment was less on the legality or otherwise of Yushchenko’s dissolution decree(s) but on his gross interference in the work of the Constitutional Court whose judges he tried to dismiss whilst they were in the process of hearing a case in which he was a party. Having said this I have to say that I am a little stunned that you should say that an illegal and unconstitutional decision is “democratic” when observing the rule of law is supposed to be the essence of what democracy is about. Imagine the reaction if Obama were to try to force a dissolution of the House of Representatives out of term because the Republicans have a majority in the existing House and then tried to sack Supreme Court Justices before they could rule against him! I am also frankly baffled as to how Yanukovitch “subverted” the elections but let’s leave that to another day.

              • Alexander:

                I will only address the last two points here.

                4. Selectivity is indeed a defense when it involves targeting and taking out two of the major opposition leaders and their supporters. I wonder, if Yushchenko had chosen to the leaders of the Party of Regions and the Communists, preventing them from participating in elections, if you would have come to his defense by claiming that selectivity is not wrong.

                5. Yushchenko’s unconsitutional actions were prompted by the fact that one of the Orange parties, the Socialists, switched sides, to the outrage of most of that party’s voters (and even much of its leadership). This switch brought Yanukovich’s party to power in the parliament. The Socialists’ actions were constitutional – although individual members may not switch sides entire parties are allowed to do so. Yushchenko forced new elections in order to let the people decide whether this realignment is something they wanted; in the new elections the Socialists lost most of their supporters and failed to clear the 3% hurdle to get into parliament, proving that their leader’s decision to switch sides was done against the wishes of his voters. And the people returned an Orange majority to parliament, albeit a very slim one. I DO NOT defend Yushchenko’s act because it was unconstitutional and set a horrible precedent, and his behavior during this crisis (firing judges) was awful, as you correctly point out. But at least it was democratic, done in the service of making sure the government reflects what the people want rather than the deals of corrupt party leaders. That doesn’t justify it, of course.

                Contrast this with Yanukovich’s equally dubious trick in the Ukrainian parliament: having members of the majority Orange parties switch sides (clearly explicitly forbidden in the Constitution, because Ukrainians vote for parties not members and the parliament members are obligated to stay with their party or resign from the parliament). This produced, without any new elections, the opposite majority of what the people actually voted for. Not only is this, like Yushchenko’s actions, unconstitutional but unlike Yushchenko’s actions it is done in the service of thwarting the wishes of the Ukrainian people as expressed in the ballot box. So the Ukrainian people voted for an Orange parliament, unelected members of the Orange parties switched sides, removed the Orange parliamentary leadership, gave dramatically expanded powers to the anti-Orange president, etc. This is even worse than what Yushchenko had done.

              • “The EU is telling Yanukovich to stop pressuring the court to do his bidding.”

                That’s not how it is being reported in western media. Maybe the western media is lazy but I remember it being more along the lines of the EU pressuring Yanukovych to get Tymoshenko off the hook (i.e. for the court to drop the case).

                ” It may not be effective, but it is probably more effective to tell the presurer to stop, then to tell the judiciary to risk becoming dissidants by standing up to the pressurers.”

                Regardless, my point was that appealing to the judiciary to follow it’s own rules and ethics is simply the right thing to do (again, two wrongs do not make a right and doing something wrong with the best intentions is a road to ruin). It does not have to result in the judiciary becoming dissidents as the judiciary does not have to oppose the government, simply resist government pressure and render a fair judgement. What if that fair judgement had been conviction? Or acquittal? At that point the EU should then congratulate the judiciary on rendering a fair judgement and outline its expectation that other cases of supposed corruption or criminal conduct would be similarly vigorously pursued regardless of whether the accused has links with the government or not.

              • “Selectivity is indeed a defense when it involves targeting and taking out two of the major opposition leaders and their supporters.”

                As I said with the Khodorkovsky matter – it shouldn’t be about letting someone out of jail because others are not in jail If Khodorkovsky and Tymoshenko are guilty of crimes then jail is where they belong. Full stop. The appropriate response for someone who is not partisan nor blinded by love for a particular person is to then agitate and work for the conviction of others who are similarly guilty. Based on what has been said above the following persons should ALL be in prison: Yushchenko, Yanukovych and Tymoshenko.

                “I wonder, if Yushchenko had chosen to the leaders of the Party of Regions and the Communists, preventing them from participating in elections, if you would have come to his defense by claiming that selectivity is not wrong.”

                Slander is usually not considered a good thing by the way. In fact if taken far enough it can lead to lawsuits in some countries. However given that you seem willing to defend Yushchenko’s actions even I have to strongly suspect that rather than being a neutral person interested in how Ukraine’s politics actually turn out you have are strongly in favour of one faction in Ukrainian politics which leads you:

                1. attempt to slander Alexander for pointing out what is only normal in a functioning democracy

                2. to defend Yushchenko doing unconstitutional actions despite the fact that the actions of the Socialists were (by your OWN admission) constitutional. By the way in a properly functioning democracy, what Yushchenko should have done was to woo the Socialists back and at the same time initiate legislation that would have made the actions of the Socialist party as a whole unconstitutional.

                “Yushchenko’s unconsitutional actions were prompted by the fact that one of the Orange parties, the Socialists, switched sides, to the outrage of most of that party’s voters (and even much of its leadership). This switch brought Yanukovich’s party to power in the parliament. The Socialists’ actions were constitutional – although individual members may not switch sides entire parties are allowed to do so.”

                So as I said above, Yushchenko’s unconstitutional actions which you defend as “democratic” were prompted by a move by the Socialists that was actually constitutional? Do you know what you get when you combine “democratic” actions as you term it without a respect for the law? Demagoguery. As had been practiced in such wonderful places to live (for minorities and those who held opposing points of view) as Germany in the 1930s and the USA in the 1950s with such wonderful character like McCarthy and Wallace.

                “Yushchenko forced new elections in order to let the people decide whether this realignment is something they wanted;”

                So in other words the Socialists weren’t people who should have been free to make their own decisions whether individually (like resigning) or collectively (like moving the party out of or into a governing coalition)? And then to live with the consequences when they were due to face the voters again?

                ” in the new elections the Socialists lost most of their supporters and failed to clear the 3% hurdle to get into parliament, proving that their leader’s decision to switch sides was done against the wishes of his voters.”

                Wonderful and in doing this Yushchenko broke the law. Only to bring forward the voters punishment of the Socialists by a few years. But what’s a few years worth of law and order compared to allowing voters to punish politicians immediately when you are too incompetent to woo a party back into your coalition, right? I suppose his attempts to dissolve the Rada in 2008 were also “at least democratic”, yes?

                “And the people returned an Orange majority to parliament, albeit a very slim one. I DO NOT defend Yushchenko’s act”

                That’s not the impression you give by saying “At least Yushchenko’s crime was democratic.”.

                Believe it or not, in English usage that is considered mounting a defence. But then this shouldn’t be surprising as you had previously pronounced that “Germany or even Germany plus France are not as dominant in the EU as Russia is in the EEC” only to backflip when it was pointed out that Germany is quite dominant economically and politically in the EU as a lot of other countries owed it money. It’s actually pretty hard to get more dominant in an organization than Germany is now in the EU as Germany has had it’s cake and eaten it too – the transfer union that others thought would mean Germany giving them money has instead become an austerity union with Germany basically forcing them to adopt the rules it desires and abides by – and all this while the others could easily outvote Germany if they wanted. But Germany holds the purse strings.

                “because it was unconstitutional and set a horrible precedent, and his behavior during this crisis (firing judges) was awful, as you correctly point out. But at least it was democratic,”

                Here again we see the defence “at least it was democratic”. If you think his behaviour was horrible and awful as you claim, what does it matter that he did it in the interest of democracy (according to his mind)? Would you similarly say “at least Obama was being democratic” if he illegally dissolved Congress and fired judges?

                Do you realize that the actions you say are “at least democratic” were done in defiance of a Constitution which was amended through a constitutional referendum in 2000 in which over 80% of Ukrainians voted and in which majorities (of 80% or more) approved the 4 amendments, one of which included the conditions for the dissolution of parliament? What kind of slap in the face of the referendum’s voters is that which you are calling “at least democratic”? And this against dissolving a parliament voted for in 2006 with a 67% turnout of 25.3 million voters to get a parliament voted for in 2007 with a 62% turnout of 23 million. Is it any wonder that millions more stayed home in 2007 than in 2006? The voters would have punished the Socialists anyway by 2011 (when the elections were actually due) unless the Socialists changed their mind and went back into the coalition (which could have happened had Yushchenko made serious attempts to win them back – even then the voters would probably still have punished them). This only further illustrates the increasing voter apathy by the way. In 2002 the parliamentary election turnout was 69%. It dropped to 67% by 2006 and to 62% by 2007 (in a country with a decreasing population at that!).

                “done in the service of making sure the government reflects what the people want rather than the deals of corrupt party leaders. That doesn’t justify it, of course.”

                You say it doesn’t justify it, but your previous statement makes the entire thing look like double-speak.

                “Contrast this with Yanukovich’s equally dubious trick in the Ukrainian parliament:”

                So you are not defending Yushchenko’s actions but we are invited to contrast his actions with Yanukovych’s? That’s an odd way of not defending Yushchenko’s actions. To be blunt both Yushchenko and Yanukovych are corrupt, low-life criminals. Tymoshenko too although the only thing going for her is that she has some looks. Both Yanukovych’s actions and Yushchenko’s actions need to be roundly condemned. The same goes for Tymoshenko. Period. No waffling language needed.

              • Hunter,

                Why the angry tone? Certainly I did not slander Alexander.

                I was clear that I do not defend Yushchenko’s actions and agree with what you write about him. I do, however, state the fact that Yushchenko’s actions were democratic, and pointed out that in contrast to Yanukovich’s illegal actions Yushchenko’s equally illegal ones at least were done in the service of representing the people’s will in government. This is not an excuse or a defence for what he did. It’s not doublespeak to say, what Yushchenko did was illegal and horrible but in the service of what people wanted, while what Yanukovich did was illegal and horrible and done against the wishes of the people. By pointing out that Yushchenkom, though bad, was not quite as bad as Yanukovich is not defending Yushchenko, just as saying that Stalin was not as bad as Hitler is not defending Stalin. Saying that Yushchenko’s action is not as bad as Yanukovich doesn’t make me a fan of Yushchenko. I am not. Personally, I have an aversion to Yanukovich which most decent people (including you) have but I do not like the others either; at best I consider them to be lesser evils.

                Merry Christmas….

              • “I do, however, state the fact that Yushchenko’s actions were democratic,”

                And as I pointed out before it was not really, except in the barest, most meaningless sense of the word since he defied the will of the people as expressed in a referendum. Yushchenko basically spat in the face of the 80%+ majority of the 80% who turned out to vote on the issue of how parliament should be dissolved in a referendum. The fact that he may have claimed he did it in the interest of democracy doesn’t make it so. He basically told over 64% of the electorate (the 80%+ of the 80% who voted) to get lost because just under 3.8% of the electorate (those who voted for the Socialists in 2006) were dissatisfied with a move that their party was legally allowed to make. And according to Alexander it seems that rather than really being in the interest of the voters he was merely hiding behind their coat-tails since he didn’t dissolve parliament when the Socialists left but many months afterwards, during which time not only did he agree to a new government’s formation, but his party (Our Ukraine) initially joined that parliamentary alliance!

                Merry Christmas to you and yours as well by the way.

              • Hunter,

                You make a very legitimate point here which highlights why it is wrong to have ignored the Constitution. Nevertheless, in this particular case, one cannot assume that the 80% of the people who approved the Constitution understood or agreed with every possible action that could have occurred.

                It looks as if the Socialist leader was able to legally “game the system” to maximize his personal power by switching sides. To his credit, Yushchenko initially tried to go along with this, by joining a super-coalition. However, over the following months it appears that Yushchenko’s party was being marginalized within the super-coalition, which was going about undoing the Orange Revolution by legislating the stripping of the presidential authority. Faced with that (a nondemocratic but totally legal parliamentary majority reversing what the people’s choice for president) Yushchenko decided to act unconstitutionally to call new elections. If the Ukrainian people supported what the parliament was now doing, this would give them a chance to vote out the Orange parties. Instead, the Ukrainian people voted out the Socialists and returned a slim Orange majority to power.

                Clearly, this was wrong because it was illegal and illegal democratic actions are similar to mob rule. On the other hand, Yanukovich’s actions since his election were not only illegal but also anti-democratic.

              • “If the Ukrainian people supported what the parliament was now doing, this would give them a chance to vote out the Orange parties….”

                Given that voter turnout dropped by 5% (equivalent to 2 million voters), it could well be argued that a lot of Ukrainians didn’t like Yushchenko did. Rather than voting the Orange parties out it seems that more Ukrainians decided to not bother voting for any party at all which is damning indictment on the Orange parties, the PoR, the Socialists and the other parties.

                And remember that with a 62% turnout, even if the Orange parties got 50% of the vote that would be 31% of the electorate’s support. The referendum on amending the constitution including how parliament could be dissolved got the support of over 64% of the electorate (over 80% support in a vote with an 80% turnout). It’s quite possible that the Orange parties had the support of some people who voted for the constitutional amendments as well as some people who did not vote in the referendum and some people who may have voted against those amendments.

              • Hunter,

                The changes to the Constitution voted for in the referndum were all eliminated by the court (without another referendum). One of the important features of that Constitution was the prohibition of parliament members switching sides. Importsant because in Ukraine people do not vote for them, but for parties and thus they are in parliament for the sole purpose of representing the part the people voted for.

                This legal nihilism of course began with Yushchenko when he dismissed the parliament illegally. Even though Yushchenko’s action was democratic, in the sense that he was standing up for the people’s will (the people didn’t want a Yanukovich parliament that was gained with legal but nondemocratic maneuverinhg, and promply voted in an Orange one), its consequences in terms of the erosion of the rule of law were awful and include Yanukovich’s takeover of the legislature. So I generally agree with your condenmation of what Yushchenko did.

              • Alexander Mercouris says:

                Dear AP,

                Yushchenko’s actions in 2007 were not democratic and he was not standing up for the people’s will. He was pursuing his own political interests and using unconstitutional and illegal methods to do so.

              • Alexander:

                Yes, you already explained many times that according to you, holding free and fair elections was not democratic when Yushchenko did it in 2007.

              • Alexander, I don’t see any point in continuing in this case as it is clear that AP either:

                1. has a reading and comprehension problem.

                2. Or he is so blinded that it manifests itself as a comprehension problem.

                3. Is attempting to slander you again.

                4. Understands what you wrote, but is intentionally pretending he doesn’t.

                Just take a look at the other issues he avoids and does backflips on: saying Germany isn’t as dominant in the EU as Russia would be in the Eurasian Union and then reversing that position; equating the Eurasian Union with a single nation state like the USSR; saying it’s okay to compare apples (election results) to oranges (opinion polls) so long as you do it in a specific way (the way he does it) and that the rest of us must compare apples and apples; implying that it’s okay for Yushchenko to dissolve parliament illegally because it’s democratic and that the will of the of nearly two-thirds of the people as expressed in a constitution didn’t matter anyway since the courts struck down the results and at the same time implying that Yushchenko’s actions were okay because a court never got to rule on the legality of it while the Socialists actions were not okay even though they were perfectly within their legal rights and would have been duly punished by the voters for their actions anyway when elections were due to held normally; saying that the rule of law doesn’t matter as long as the will of the majority is maintained (perhaps he doesn’t know the difference between democracy and ochlocracy…certainly Freedom House would disagree with him there as they definitely associate the rule of law with democracy and the maintenance of human rights); ignoring that Yanukovych’s government came to a 2010 agreement with the EU over an action plan for visa-free travel which kind puts a hole in the idea that nobody who supports closer relations with the EU could ever support Yanukovych and the PoR; whittling down individual voter complexity to the point where in that universe persons who could be described Blue Dog Democrats are impossible…..

              • How unfortunate that you have to resort to personal attacks, Hunter. Good luck, then.

              • “How unfortunate that you have to resort to personal attacks, Hunter. Good luck, then.”

                Says the person who kept trying to infer that Alexander was pro-Yanukovych without the slightest evidence (which is an attempt at slander despite your denials) and who puts words into Alexander’s mouth. I think you should look in a mirror before you make pronouncements like this.

                You MUST have a reading or comprehension problem or you are deliberating misinterpreting what is written if you can say that Alexander said “holding free and fair elections was not democratic”.

  6. “…the economic situation in Russia – featuring 4.8% GDP growth in Q3 2011 – is at the moment simply not conductive to an Occupy Wall Street movement…”

    I work in Downtown Manhattan, so I’ve observed the occupy-a-little-park-next-to-Wall-Street people myself. It’s hard for me to see their movement as an upswell of popular economic discontent.

    First, there were very few of them there. Larger, noisier public employee union rallies have gone on in the same neighborhood (next to City Hall) for many years, many times a year, in both good and bad economic times. Compared to city clerical worker union rallies, this was nothing.

    Second, they were mostly hipsters, i.e., the children of the upper middle and upper classes obsessed with fashions of every sort: sartorial, musical, political, pharmaceutical. How do I know this? ‘Cause I’m not blind. I know what hipsters look like. There are whole neighborhoods full of these people in both Manhattan and Brooklyn. These are some of the most expensive neighborhoods in by far the most expensive city in this country. I’ll sympathize with their plight some time after pigs conquer space.

    It’s all boringly predictable. Leftist ideology is very rarely attractive to any of the people whom leftists pretend to represent. Marx, Engels, Lenin, Trotsky, Che, Castro, Abimael Guzman, subcommandante Marcos, Chomsky – no children of workers or peasants in the list. The moment an actual cobbler’s son came to power in the USSR, the USSR stopped being leftist. Khruschov and Brezhnev came from humble backgrounds too, so both were instinctively conservative (think of Khruschov’s reaction to modernist “art”) .

    If the NYT is praising someone for fighting any kind of an establishment, then he is, almost by definition, a member of the establishment. It pays to be in the establishment. These are the least likely sort of people to feel a drop of 3% in the GDP personally. They won’t even know anyone who knows anyone who’ll feel it. I’m doing very much OK, but even if I was doing 5 times better, I still couldn’t afford to live in the sort of NYC neighborhood where the average occupier’s fashion sense and speech mannerisms wouldn’t stand out. It’s not that wealth is bad in itself (only the unearned kind is), it’s that everyone with a clue is tired of their hypocrisy.

    “The only way to resolve this contradiction is through a full-fledged fiscal union, with big longterm transfers from the North to the South.”

    Why wouldn’t a divorce resolve these contradictions? Why are theft, hand-outs and dependency considered before divorce?

    “Putin has also made Eurasian (re)integration one of the cornerstones of his Presidential campaign.”

    Ethnic relations were peaceful in the post-WWII USSR partly because the “free movement of labor” was minimized. The propiska system kept most of the population in place. Where there WAS some movement of labor (the migration of Russians and Ukrainians to the Baltics for example, and to Kazakhstan too), there was some ethnic tension, though nowhere near modern Western European, Russian and American levels. The freer the movement of labor, the more ethnic strife. That’s an absolute law of politics and history. The Dark Ages could as well be called the Voelkerwanderung Ages. So yeah, if that stuff about “the free movement of labor” is meant here seriously, then the future of that part of Eurasia will unfortunately be bloody.

    “Deaths will continue to fall quite rapidly, as excise taxes on vodka – the main contributor to Russia’s high mortality rates – are slated to rise sharply after the Presidential elections.”

    You admit that the price of an intoxicant inversely correlates with the death rate. Now, if you could only admit that banning intoxicants increases their street price (this is actually a no-brainer), then you’ll have to admit that (1 + 1 = 2) banning decreases death rates. You know what else would be guaranteed to decrease the death rate of any population anywhere on Earth? The banning of and public advertising against sodomy. Fewer people will die early.

    “Much as I would prefer Ron Paul over Obama…”

    I’m not a Libertarian, but I would also prefer Ron Paul. I agree with his foreign policy the most, I’m sure that the Fed is as evil as he says, and the budget really does need to be cut a lot. One doesn’t need to be a Libertarian to see that. Plus, he’s personally more honest than the competition.

    “…though the same constraints will apply as before: Aliyev’s fears of Russian retaliation…”

    I know nothing about this. Would a Russian retaliation be likely? It would be so funny to see the Western media attack Putin for intervening in Azerbaijan while Obama intervenes in Iran. OK, war isn’t funny, but it would be interesting.

    “I can’t say I have any clue as to how Syria will turn out.”

    I haven’t been following Syrian internal strife, but I would guess that it is ethnic in nature. Most conflicts are. If I did read up on it and it turned out that Assad’s opposition was truly liberal, democratic, etc., I would fall from my chair. Not that I blame anyone for looking out for their own kind.

    I’ve read in the past that Assad’s religious community (the Alawites) tends to be more blue-eyed and generally Europoid than other local communities. In general, in both the Middle East and South Asia, religious enmity is a self-fulfilling prophesy. If groups split by a theological dispute refuse to breed with each other over dozens of generations, then in the end they really do become separate peoples. Visually, temperamentally. That can only reinforce the enmity. I’m sure that in some cases theological disputes are just pretexts for preexisting ethnic differences too.

    “I do not think Occupy Wall Street has good prospects in the US. By acting outside the mainstream…”

    If I didn’t hear about them on TV first, I would have never found out about them, and I work less than a 10 minute walk away from Zuccotti Park. The mainstream media is both that movement’s mother and father.

    “…the weed smoking and poor sartorial choices of its members…”

    This is what the word trustafarian was invented to describe. Though I hear that at the end some actual bums started spoiling their picnic.

    “I say this as someone who is broadly sympathetic with OWS aims and has attended associated events in Berkeley.”

    This reminds me: the foreclosure/real estate crisis has hit Las Vegas the worst (because it was the biggest boom town before the crisis). Florida was very hard-hit too. These are not the places where the OWS movement originated or became most prominent. It originated where the hipsters are.

    “…against cynical and corrupt dictators, not cynical and corrupt pseudo-democrats…”

    Well, to the Arab Spring rioters their leaders are cynical and corrupt pseudo-Islamists. Different fig leaves.

    As for my own predictions, I’m scared of what will happen right after the US presidential election. If the dollar is to be devalued, the current administration wouldn’t want to do it until after the election. I remember that time in the mid-90s when the Mexican peso was devalued right after a Mexican presidential election. Also, if Obama loses by a hair, there could be riots.

    • ” I haven’t been following Syrian internal strife, but I would guess that it is ethnic in nature. ”

      It is mostly terrorist snipers gathered by CIA from all over Islamic regions of Asia and North Africa, shooting at random people including women and children. (I kid you not*).

      (sources arranged from the less to the more time-consuming:)
      http://rt.com/news/war-syria-religion-people-727/
      http://www.voltairenet.org/Webster-Tarpley-from-Damascus-CIA
      http://www.voltairenet.org/The-decision-to-attack-Syria-was
      * http://tarpley.net/2011/12/24/natos-assault-on-syria/

      The terrorists find domestic support among bigoted Alawites; …but, as far as I’m concerned, these geography textbook factors are of secondary importance, the real determinant is whether one is psychologically able to join in killing children.

      • Wow – the Thierry Meyssan piece is terrific!!! I have argued on other sites that the view (of events in Syria) being pushed by the English-speaking media is exclusively based on reports from activists, and that the army firing indiscriminately into crowds and thousands of dead is pure bullshit. But that was just from what I believe to be true, based on previous performance in regime-change operations and NATO’s propensity for lying in order to garner support. This guy really knows what’s going on, he’s seen it. A gripping piece of reporting; thanks for the opportunity to read it.

  7. “I haven’t been following Syrian internal strife, but I would guess that it is ethnic in nature. Most conflicts are. If I did read up on it and it turned out that Assad’s opposition was truly liberal, democratic, etc., I would fall from my chair. Not that I blame anyone for looking out for their own kind.”

    You are right in that they’re not liberal minded in the least. Except for a tiny percentage just as in Egypt…But their chairman Burhan Ghalioun is (and so are their spokepersons in the West).
    This is to accredit the idea of a liberal revolution, and for now it’s working since I’m not noticing the crisis being labelled “civil war” by the western media- when civil war it really is.
    The Russian draft being currently discussed, which the French called a “manoeuvre” because it’s equating government and insurgents violence, seems to be a move to 1/ lessen criticisms of Russia as the one blocking any initiative 2/ set the background for an acknowledgment of the situation as a civil war.
    And it’s just a matter of time before it happens, because insurgents aren’t toppling the government any time soon, so expect violence in Syria to make the news for a long time to come.

    • I followed Libya conflict very closely, right up to its brutal end. (Actually it did not end, is still ongoing, now guerilla war and so on, although Western media has fallen silent and does not cover any more). Have not followed Syrian conflict (and do not understand Syrian internal dynamics), except for the Libyan connection. What I do know in broad outlines: (1) Libyan transitional government, who were put into power by NATO, are helping Syrian opposition for form their own transitional government (in exile). (2) Victorious Libyan rebel fighters, led by Al Qaeda warlord Abdulhakim Belhaj, are helping Syrian Islamists to form their own fighting army against Assad regime. These are the people who are attacking garrisons, fighting against professional soldiers, etc. (3) Is definitely a civil war, with many foreign players involved. (4) However, barring NATO intevention, then Assad should survive this assault. All others things being equal, he DOES command a huge military machine, much better than Gaddafy’s army, and even Gaddafy with his pathetic army would have won against the Rabbles if not for NATO intervention. In summary, outcome depends on Russia/China standing firm against UN/NATO.

      • P.S. I forgot to mention one very important factor: the Qatar Emir’s brilliant propaganda tool Al Jazeera, which is cheering on the war against Assad, just as they did against Gaddafy. Anybody who followed Libya war knows that Al Jazeera, more even than NATO, won the war against Gaddafy. Such is the age we live in.

      • “Is definitely a civil war,”

        It happens to be not. You know Webster Tarpley who was in Libya and broadcasted live from the 1 July demonstrations. Well, in mid-November he had a week-long tour through Syria, and what he later emphasised in his reports is:
        “I’ve seen what a civil war in the Middle East is like, I’ve been in Libya; in Syria there is no civil war, there is no any territorial segment of the country outside government control.” (my paraphrase.)
        Good news!

        • What is really required though, in order to call a conflict a civil war?
          Loss of territorial control? Some areas regularly spin out of control if only to be regained shortly afterwards- but some parts of Homs have been under insurgents control for most of this year.

          Besides I remember that very debate regarding the internal infightings in Iraq, about what is a civil war or not
          http://www.nytimes.com/2006/11/26/world/middleeast/26war.html?pagewanted=1
          Intents and casualties are very much describing a state of civil war in Syria.

          For Iraq the whole controversy was politically motivated, with the Americans refusing to call a spade a spade.

          Some one month ago, the UN high commissioner for Human Rights said the following about Syria

          “As soon as there were more and more defectors threatening to take up arms, I said this in August before the Security Council, that there’s going to be a civil war. And at the moment, that’s how I am characterizing this.”

          In reply, Mark Toner of the State Department said
          “The overwhelming use of force has been taken by Assad and his regime,” “So there’s no kind of equanimity here.”

          So not even the UN will make them change their stance which he had already expressed before in response to Lavrov “”If [Russia] characterizes it as a civil war, we view that it is very much the Assad regime carrying out a campaign of violence, intimidation and repression against innocent protesters.”

          It’s all about propaganda.

      • Mardochee augustin says:

        Libya is soon to become the Somalia of North Africa. Yesterday there was clash in Tripoli between the various militias. What will soon happen to Libya is that the Transitional govt will fail to disarm the militias and Libya will become a warlord state. This will destabilize North Africa. We will see what Europe does when Libya becomes Somalia .You have like 20 different types of militias all heavily armed and from different regions. There will be power struggles and it will turn deadly. What will happen is the Transitional government will be seen corrupt,weak and inept,the various militias will not listen to or will try to overthrow it. This will lead to civil war.

        In regards to Syria,it is the Levantine Yugoslavia. It is ethnically driven by the Sunnis and if there a civil war the West will not intervene because the regional ramifications. Syria and Iran both have a defense pact to come to the aid of the other if a foreign power attacks. What will most likely happen is Assad will fight it out and it becomes sectarian. When he is gone Syria will fall into a sectarian civil war worse then the Lebanese war in the 80s which will lead to its break up.

        • In Libya, clashes occur every day between various warlord factions. The NATO-imposed NTC government has proved itself to be completely impotent in restoring order. Another important thing going on is the political rise of the Zintani tribe. The Zintanis are in physical possession of Gaddafy’s last remaining political heir, Saif Al Islam. Using Saif as their ace in the deck, they were able to acquire the plum position of “Defense” in the cabinet of the transitional government. This put them in direct (armed) conflict with the NATO-supported Al Qaeda faction, led by Belhaj. The Zintani possession of Saif has made them the object of pilgrimages from such eminences as American ambassador, Qatari emissaries, and World Court, who want to take possession of Saif and try him in Hague. Zintanis have refused to hand over Saif, and recent reports claim he may have even taken a wife from the Zintani tribe, which would cement this strange alliance between former “rebels” and a former regime personality.

          • Mardochee augustin says:

            I agree the situation in Libya will likely to descend into chaos. If what you say in true the Zintani tribe could clash with Belhaj’s Al-Qaida militias for control. The NTC just as you said is weak. From the beginning you could tell the revolution was going to followed by chaos and conflict. Every revolutions is like that including the American Revolution(Shays Rebellion,Whiskey rebellion). Libya has no political institutions,tribal society,and heavily armed militias with a weak central government.Of course they would fight one another. What of the Misrata militias?They have a heavy presence in Tripoli.

            • Video of Misurata gangs attacking refugee camp in Tripoli.
              Background: Gaddafy regime invited tens of thousands of sub-Saharan Africans to Libya to work as guest workers. They worked in oil business, construction, and other industries; in many cases they did work that Libyan Arabs, who basically lived in a welfare state, did not want to do. The guest workers earned good pay and their wages were a major source of revenue for sub-Saharan African countries.
              When the Islamist militias in Benghani rose up against Gaddafy, Al Jazeera initiated a major propaganda campaign against these guest workers, and also against Libyan citizens who happened to be dark-skinned ethnic Africans. Al Jazeera’s false charge, picked up and parroted by Western media, was that all these Africans were Gaddafy mercenaries who had raped (white) Libyan women. In the turmoil that followed, thousands of black African males were lynched, and thousands of African females were raped by Arab militias. By fanning racial hatred, Al Jazeera helped to facilitate one of the most egregious crimes of the Libyan war, which was the genocide and ethnic cleansing of the town of Tawergha, just south of Misurata. The population of 30,000 was either murdered or driven out of their homes, the survivors ended up in refugee camps, like the one in Tripoli shown in this video. There, the refugees live in appalling conditions, completely forgotten by the international community and subject to periodic attacks, which include abductions, murders, and the systematic raping of African women and girls by the Misuratan tribal and Al Qaeda (Wahhabist) militias.

  8. “In summary, outcome depends on Russia/China standing firm against UN/NATO.”

    Medvedev was to the Libyan issue far worse than Yeltsin ever was in regard to Kosovo and Metohija.

    I mean Medvedev! The Bambi-like servant of Satan, and the best choice of the best leader in the recent history of Russia, which is in turn the world’s best hope against the Western mafia. The whole Libyan episode was an abysmal failure, to which no sane person should be indifferent.

    • @Ivan, I agree with you that Russia’s stance on Libya was a shameful betrayal. China’s too. What NATO did not just to Libyan people but to entire African continent is inexcusable. Wherever the Islamists came to power in Libya, they proceeded to lynch sub-Saharan African migrant workers. Here is just one example, this is not propaganda, this actually happened. One dead African guy, but there were many thousands just like him (not even counting the ethnic cleansing of 30,000 Africans from the town of Tawergha by the Libyan Rabbles). This is 10 times worse than anything that happened in Srebrnica. What is really galling is that Medvedev could have prevented this genocide with a single veto in the UN, but he did not have the guts to do it:

      • How horrible. AFAIK the Lybian government was unpopular in Benghazi and the Africans were seen as servants of the unpopular government. The Benghazis took out their rage at Khadaffi’s government on the people he brought into the country, Africans. You know Lybia much more than I do, wouldn’t it make sense to split the country along historical lines(Cyrenaica, Tripoli).

        • Khadaffi had to bring Africans in to do the boring work (like building roads and aqueducts and keeping the oil rigs running), because the Benghazi guys were too busy doing more interesting things, like training in Al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan and learning how to make explosives and so on.

          • Maybe Benghazis didn’t want roads and aqueducts? The Africans come across like the Han settlers in Tibet who get attacked by native Tibetan rioters. No excuse to kill civilians of course, looks like the Africans looking for a better life got caught in the middle of that conflict.

            • @AP: It is false analogy to compare Libyan Africans with Han Chinese in Tibet. For starters, Libya is an African country, and African tribes (including Touareg and Berbers) dwelled there long before the Arabs arrived. But putting aside that historical stuff, while it is true that Gaddafy government invited thousands of guest construction workers from sub-Saharan countries such as Chad and Niger, it is also the case that many of these ethnic African families who are being attacked now are Libyan citizens who have lived in Libya for many generations.
              Besides, the attacks are not taking place in Benghazi any more, the Cyrenaican Islamists already killed off or drove away “their” blacks in the first months of the war. The biggest warcrime in this conflict (aside from the destruction of Sirte) was the ethnic cleansing of Tawergha, which is in CENTRAL Libya, just south of Misurata, NOT in Benghazi.
              A couple of your remarks seem to indicate that you come within a hair (“boys will be boys”) of condoning this genocide, kind of like “Well, much as I abhor the lynchings, the people of Benghazi were kind of righteously ticked off that that brute Gaddafy imposed these Africans on them, and then the Benghazis inappropriately took out their rage on the guest workers…. etc.” Which jibes pretty well with the “Al Jazeera” line on these scenes of lynchings and ethnic cleansing. Initially Al Jazeera cheered on the lynchings: “Yeah, those were Gaddafy mercenaries, go get ‘em.” Then, when you-tube was flooded with these scenes and it was no longer possible to condone or continue with the lie that they were all mercenaries, Al Jazeera switched to: “Deplorable but understandable.”
              This genocide of Libyans Africans is not some street brawl or random donnybrook, it is not even a “fog of war” kind of thing, we are not talking about the righteous anger of ordinary Arabs, we are talking about a systematic government (in this case, transitional government) policy of genocide that was initiated from above right at the beginning of the conflict. The attacks were instigated by the Islamist/Al Qaeda elements in the insurgent movement; condoned by NATO; and given an ideological justification by their propaganda tool “Al Jazeera”. The genocidal attacks created an atmosphere of sheer terror that helped to bring down the Gaddafy government, and now continue because the new government has nothing else to offer the Libyan people. Oh, and by the way, many of the attacks are based on religion, because the Touaregs and other African tribes practice a different form of Islam than the Wahhabites. For example, Touareg version of Islam permits burials in mausoleums, so these graves have become the target of Wahhabite attacks. So, you see, this genocide has more to do with politics and religion than with Benghazis disliking roads and aqueducts.
              Speaking of Benghazis, even they are not particularly happy with their new government, and there have been almost daily demonstrations like this one. (And no, they are not chanting “Down with roads and aqueducts!” Mostly they are demanding unpaid wages.)

              • Alexander Mercouris says:

                Dear Yalensis,

                I have spent the last day or so familiarising myself with your various posts about the Libyan conflict. They have been fascinating.

                I wrote my own piece about it at the end of October, which whilst it obviously cannot match you on the detail of the conflict at least sets out my views.

                http://mercouris.wordpress.com/2011/10/30/pirate-raid-on-libya/

                On the subject of Africans in Libya, not only is Libya an African country but of the three regions into which it is divided, Tripolitania, Cyrenaica and Fezzan, Fezzan is black African and its culture is that of Africa’s interior. Fezzan’s people are indistinguishable from other black Africans and the region remained loyal to Gaddafi to the bitter end. I suspect that many of the claims about African mercenaries (which by the way have been proved to have been largely untrue) were caused by a mistaken belief that African soldiers serving in the Libyan army from Fezzan, who are of course Libyans, were mercenaries when they were not. In any event and as you correctly say even if there had been African mercenaries serving in large numbers in Gaddafi’s army that would not justify the torture and mistreatment of black Africans in Libya, which is now going on.

                One reason by the way why I have found your posts on Libya so helpful is that because the war in Libya is supposedly “over” the British media has practically stopped writing about it. Such information as I can get, not least from your posts, suggests a country that is slowly falling apart.

              • “This genocide of Libyans Africans is not some street brawl or random donnybrook, it is not even a “fog of war” kind of thing, we are not talking about the righteous anger of ordinary Arabs, we are talking about a systematic government (in this case, transitional government) policy of genocide that was initiated from above right at the beginning of the conflict”

                But… the flawless, peerless West decided that these people supported their enemy-du-jour, and therefore, like Yanukovych-supporters in Eastern Ukraine may be safely ignored.

                Right AP?

              • Thanks for the clarification!

  9. I agree that Vladimir Putin should win the Russian Presidential election comfortably. There doesn’t seem to be much of an opposition against him. After that he will move towards a Eurasian economic union or federation of some kind. I predict the Western media will start screaming about a new Iron Curtain descending across Asia; if there’s one thing we know about the Western media in its reaction to anything Russia and Putin do, it’s that it has no imagination to imagine anything other than a new Cold War.

    Greece and most likely one other country in the EU will have to default. I don’t know much about Hungary but its financial position appears to be bad. Ditto for Latvia. At least if Latvia defaults then there’s probably less chance that Georgia will try another deranged stunt on the Ossetians during the Olympic Games?

    It wouldn’t be out of the ordinary either if the Obama administration opened a new war front during this 2012 election year. Libya or eastern Libya at least will be a repository for US and other countries’ weapons and military equipment which will then be taken to other parts of Africa, especially west Africa. The newly independent southern Sudan state is likely to be another stepping stone to American domination of western and central Africa. So I expect to see much more instability in countries like the DRC, Cote d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) and Nigeria and I wouldn’t be surprised if a war were to break out in one of these countries or in one of their neighbours that “requires” assistance from the US or NATO. We should probably also keep a watch on Algeria and Morocco for much the same reason as these two countries so far have avoided the “Arab spring”.

    I think one of the biggest problems for 2012 will be the Mexican drug cartels and their networks going global and we’re likely to hear of their activities in countries outside the Western Hemisphere. I’m not sure but I think there was some news last year that they had a foothold in Australia and were active in supplying cocaine and maybe other drugs here.

  10. While I agree that a leaner northern Europe orientated Eurozone is very much a possibility, would it be able to survive any severe knock on affect likely to spread from those countries left out of this area? Possibly if the Germans allow the ECB to stand behind the new smaller version, but there would be legal implications regarding this, with the rest of the EU (if it survives) perhaps objecting to a strategy, which at present Merkel is refusing to use in support of the economies of Italy, Spain etc.

    Of course she could still decide to save the Eurozone as it is (with the exception of Greece) by permitting the ECB to be the lender of last resort for countries like Italy, which despite being beleaguered still remain solvent. Not only would Germany be adversely affected like anyone else by any international downturn exacerbated by a lack of confidence in the Eurozone, but as a net exporter to other European nations it will suffer.

    A ‘Far Left’ victory in Greece would of course act as a catalyst for the increasing appetite for those in the north of Europe to continue without it, but again this would have an impact on German exports.

  11. “AP says:
    January 6, 2012 at 11:20 am
    As far as I understand those countries all owe German banks a lot of money.”

    Which is funny because you said the exact opposite before:

    “Demographically, politically and economically, Germany or even Germany plus France are not as dominant in the EU as Russia is in the EEC.”

    “Do you really think that Russia would be less dominant over Ukraine within a Eurasian Union than Germany would be?”

    No I think they would equally dominant. Any idea that Ukraine would not be dominated by Germany in the EU is a fairy tale.

    “Ukraine’s industries and entire economy would be absorbed by Russia’s (as would its energy network etc.),”

    And they wouldn’t be absorbed by more competitive and efficient German industries?

    “it would host Russian military bases,”

    Where did you read that? A source would be nice.

    “Russian would become the second state language (and probably de facto the primary official language)”

    Again, where did you read this? A source would be nice for this as well.

    ” and the pro-Western 50% of the country would become permantently marginalized, no longer 50% of a country but now 12% of a much larger country.”

    Oh, I see the porblem. You are equating Eurasian Union with the USSR and a supranational union with a single state even though Putin said exactly otherwise.

  12. @AP (et all others),

    I don’t know the details, but could the drop in Blue support be much more prosaic than Yanukovych’s supposed thuggishness and/or closeness to Russia? After getting bailed out by the IMF – note also that Ukraine’s economy still hasn’t recovered from its -15% drop in 2009 – Ukraine had to commit to an austerity program. The high gas prices charged by Russia surely aren’t helping. And as we know from experience in both the US and Russia, approval ratings are highly synchronous with economic performance, with the corollary that austerity is never popular. I would guess that at least 75% of the drop in Yanukovych’s / PoR support can be explained by this.

    • Yes, that likely accounts for a large amount of his drop in support. Of course, a major factor here is that Yanukovich and his allies are really flaunting their wealth while forcing austerity on the Ukrainian people. His massive palace outside Kiev is but one example. Party of Regions officials worth hundreds of millions of dollars (obtained not very legally) telling the people the government can’t pay for their pensions does not go down well.

      On a certain level, in Russian terms, Yanukovich’s government is a bit like if Khodorkovsky, Berezovsky etc. had managed to take over Russia. I suppose if the economy were going really well people would tolerate thuggishness and corruption, but if not…

  13. Another important trend in 2011: America continues her long slow slide into authoritarian police state with executive branch gaining ever more police powers. Including power to detain indefinitely even American citizens without habeas corpus. This situation seriously erodes American Constitution and is bound to get worse before it gets better.

    • The people running the show know what is coming in the next few years: massive economic collapse triggered by oil shortages. The current global oil (+condensate) plateau is about to transform into a decline since there are not enough new oil fields being found and developed. Since the US decided not to get off the fossil fuel crack (it was cheap and so too addictive) back in the 1970s when it had a chance it is now royally screwed. There is no way that the economy can be re-geared to alternatives in 5 years, it would take 20 years with a massive government funded “Manhattan Project” style endeavour. Current deployment of alternatives is miniscule.

      So they know that there will be food riots in the USA in the near future. All these wars on “terror” are a diversion designed to change the “code base” of the US system, if you will. To me it sure looks like the Iraq and future Iran wars are all about oil and natural gas. But this is a dollar short and a day late. There is simply not going to be enough oil produced in Iraq to matter. Iran has the second largest gas reserves in the world but that is not enough to save the EU via Nabucco or the world via LNG exports.

  14. “I bothered to calculate similat pe-election polls from the parliamentary elections in 2006:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ukrainian_parliamentary_election,_2006#Razumkov_Centre_Poll

    In the last poll,the three Orange parties (Tymoshenko, Our Ukraine, and the Socialists – this was before they switched sides) polled 35.9% collectively, while the Party of Regions, Communists, and Progressive Socialists collectively 35.4%. 14.9% were undecided.

    In the final eelctions the Blue Parties received 38.73% of the vote and the Orange ones 41.93%. The Orange parties picked up about double the undecided votes than did the Blue parties, come election time. (+6.03 vs. +3.33, respectively).

    Note that in that election, which produced a slim Orange majority (until the Socialists switched sides after the elections) the pre-election polls showing Orange support were about 10 percentage points lower than they are now!”

    First note that you are essentially comparing an undecided bloc that quite often in polls is no larger than 9% and has remained like that for years (even in the poll I did details for in 2009 the undecided were 9.4%). So how is it that you are applying the same analysis to a group constituting 27% of poll respondents that you would apply to 9%? How does that factor in that the 27% MUST necessarily be of a different demographic nature than the traditional 9% simply because it contains 3 times as many people?

    Also why are you proving over and over what I had long since outlined – that the Orange parties consistently picky up 35-50% of the vote in any elections or opininon polls? So the Orange parties were polling 10% lower in 2006 than they are now. Did you look back on the election results I cited? Here they are again and note the percentage difference between 2006 and 2010: 2004 (46-51%), 2006 (36.24%), 2007 (44.86%), and 2010 (45.47%).

    I wouldn’t be surprised that the Orange parties were polling 10% less in 2006 than today as in 2006 we had Yushchenko and Tymoshenko waging all out war against each other. As a result some Orange supporters were turned off but they never went over to the PoR. I suspect we are seeing the same thing in reverse here. Today however Yushchenko is out of the picture so the inter-party conflicts have lessened to a considerable degree (Tymoshenko being behind bars has probably helped indirectly as well as she can’t squabble with others out of a prison cell).

    “Again, I do find it odd that you claim that currently the Party of Regions supporters consists almost entirely of people being pro-EU or not opposed to it.”

    All you have to do to figure it out is to come up with a reason why an anti-EU crowd would continue support the PoR when it has been on a pro-EU track for the entire time it has been in government (you have yet to give us a reason for that kind of logic by the way). Why do you think it is impossible for the PoR to have pro-EU supporters when the PoR itself espouses a pro-EU policy? Is that you believe voters must fall into defined categories and therefore pro-EU = pro-Orange and anti-PoR?

    • Hunter,

      When comparing polls it’s important to compare apples to apples. That is, don’t compare these pre-election parliamentary polls to the results of the parliamentary election but to other pre-election parliamentary polls.

      I looked at four opinion polls taken prior to the parliamentary elections of 2006 (unfortunately I couldn’t find opinion polls for the 2007 parliamentary elections), three by Razumkov and one by the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology. The results for the three Orange parties were 31.5%, 32%, 35.9%, and 32.9%, respectively (the percent of undecideds ranged from 10.5 to 20.9% in these polls).

      In contrast, December 2011’s poll gave the Orange parties a collective support of 45%. This pre-election poll’s results is thus a significant improvement for the Orange side in comparison to the previous ones.

      Back in 2006, the Orange parties ended up collectively winning 41.93% of the votes which translated into 243 seats out of 450 – a small (54%) majority. Given the current poll numbers, in which already the Orange parties are enjoying about 10% more support than they did in previous pre-election polls, it is quite likely that they will the get into the upper fifties or even sixty percent of the parliamentary vote. The elections are of course about ten months away, much can happen until then, but that’s how it looks now.

      You explanation for increase in Orange support makes sense. Certainly the lack of squabbling between Tymosehnko and Yushchenkoplays a role. As AK pointed out, Yanukovich’s austerity measures also undoubtedly play a large role also.

      About EU support in Yanukovich’s camp – it seems that most people in Ukraine understand that whatever his rhetoric, Yanukovich’s policies (especally those concerning Tymoshenko) are keeping the EU distant. If people were really interested in the EU they would not support Yanukovich. His rhetoric might turn off very hardcore oppoenents of the EU (who would suport the Communists or insignificant Rusian nationalist parties) but these wouldn’t be over 20% of the Ukrainian population.

      • “When comparing polls it’s important to compare apples to apples. That is, don’t compare these pre-election parliamentary polls to the results of the parliamentary election but to other pre-election parliamentary polls.”

        Which book did you read that in? Because I’ve never heard anything like that in my life and this is the first time I’ve ever seen such an idea enunciated. I don’t buy it though for the simple reason that if you can’t compare pre-election parliamentary polls to parliamentary elections themselves then the pre-election parliamentary polls are useless and there is no point ever discussing them. Much less discussing them with a view to a possible parliamentary election in 2012. After all if pre-election parliamentary polls cannot be compared to actual election results, how can you or I then use these same pre-parliamentary polls to discuss and extrapolate on possible 2012 parliamentary election results? Surely by this logic the only data we can use in discussing the upcoming Ukrainian election is the actual results of past parliamentary elections……

        • Pre-election polls (particularly when multiple parties are involved) include large numbers of undecideds who make their decision during the actual election. Thus pre-election numbers tend to underestimate the actual vote totals in the election. For example, in the parliamentay elections of 2006 the Orange parties consistantly polled 35% or so in the pre-election polls, and got into the 40’s during the actual election. One can certainly predict likely results in the actual election based on the pre-election polls (otherwise pre-election polls would be useless) but the raw numbers themselves are not comparable.

          • So you are saying that 35% and 45% are not comparable even though both numbers can easily be described as a range (and even though with the margin of error in polls being 2-5% normally a 35% result in a poll could easily be 40% when error is taken into account)? I’m sure from the very start we established that the Orange parties (for lack of a better term) have consistently scored between 30-50% in parliamentary elections and polls. To say that we can’t use pre-parliamentary polls to compare to parliamentary elections except in the one specific instance you’ve outlined just because one group moves from the 30s to the 40s between only one set of pre-parliamentary polls and a particular parliamentary election means that you are basically framing the debate to suit your needs instead of looking at all the available historical data (which if you did look would show that back in the early 2000s the Orange parties did indeed score about 30% combined – indeed for 2002 the original Orange party had been polling at 27-28% by itself in the poll and ended up with 23% in the actual result).

            Sure polls include a number of undecided, but you what? They also include people who will say one thing to the pollster and then do something else in the voting booth. Some people simply change their mind while others never gave a candid answer to begin with (for instance in the Shy Tory Factor or the Bradley effect). Others have already made up their mind but simply refuse to answer the pollster since they may feel that their views are private and their privacy should be respected. If you are going to throw out one set of opinion polls (except for the ones which you like to choose because they fit your thesis) because they have undecided then you really should throw out ALL opinion polls since all opinion polls (or almost all) have an undecided category. Even then you do not account for the fact that some of the undecided may actually be “against all” inclined and would either choose that option if available or spoil their ballot.

            • I’m saying that preelection polls and actual election results should not be lumped together to provide a single “range”,because they reflect related but different/distinct phenomena (opinion before the election, and actual voting behavior). Opinion polls involve undecideds, and they involve the Shy Tory factor as you rightly point out, etc. Such factors distinguish opinion polls from actual election results. Polls can certainly predict election results but the raw numbers themselves are not comparable because they reflect different (even if related) things. So a range of numbers that includes two different phenomena is meaningless. If I test a drug that is 50% effective after one month of treatment and 80% effective after four months treatment, do I lump those figures together and conclude that the drug’s effectiveness ranges from 50%-80%? No, I do not, because one month of treatment is a different condition than is four months treatment. So if another drug comes along that is 80% effective after only one month, do I conclude that this drug is really the same as the previous one, because it falls within the range of 50%-80% of the previous drug? No, doing so would be absurd.

              Similarly, opinion polls before elections are different from actual election results. The current polls give the Orange parties 45% support. This is 10% higher than in the parallel condition – other prelection polls.

            • “I’m saying that preelection polls and actual election results should not be lumped together to provide a single “range”,because they reflect related but different/distinct phenomena”

              That’s not what have actually been saying. As you are still using the pre-election 2006 polls and the 2006 elections to compare to the 2011 polls and make a case that the 2012 elections will go a certain way. If you can use 2006 polls, the 2006 election and the 2011 polls together to make an estimate for the 2012 elections then it is hypocritical (and highly hypocritical at that) to say that others cannot use other polls as well as other elections to make a different case about the 2012 elections.

              “If I test a drug that is 50% effective after one month of treatment and 80% effective after four months treatment, do I lump those figures together and conclude that the drug’s effectiveness ranges from 50%-80%? No, I do not,”

              Well of course you don’t. But it is interesting that you conveniently ignore the stats I provided which showed Orange party support fluctuating between 30-50% in elections and the fact that an opinion poll showing 35% support with a + or – 5% error could mean 40% support before an election where the parties might get 45% (and therefore only a 5% difference). Instead you come up with an example where the range is greater (80-50 does not give you the same range as 50-35 or even 50-30) and where you don’t have to account for the fact that polling statistical error could mean that previous poll results were actually closer to the final election results than would at first appear to be the case. But if you think that a 30% difference is the same as a difference which could be only 5% when polling error is taken into account then carry on.

              “Similarly, opinion polls before elections are different from actual election results. The current polls give the Orange parties 45% support. This is 10% higher than in the parallel condition – other prelection polls.”

              And here we see your internal contradiction in action again. So “opinion polls before elections are different from actual elections results”, yet in the very next sentence you are talking about these same opinion polls (both current and former even though you say I shouldn’t use the former) in relation to an upcoming actual election. You can continue on the hypocritical track if you want as it seems to be the only way you can make your argument. But the holes in your theory are many.

              For instance you make the argument that the Orange parties usually pick up more of the undecided vote and that their actual electoral showing tends to be higher than their pre-election opinion poll showing, but then how do you account for the fact in 2002 the Orange parties were polling 33-35% before the election but received 30.9% in the actual election? How is that they lost support then? If your theory on the opinion polls v elections holds then doesn’t that mean either for the 2006 election we should have seen the Orange parties get less support than the pre-election polls would suggest OR that for the 2002 election we should have seen the Orange parties get more support than the pre-election polls suggested? If you are going to come up with the excuse that “the Orange parties weren’t in power and therefore elections weren’t free” how then would that bear on 2012 when the Orange parties (like in 2002) are not in power either in the parliament of in the presidency? If the excuse is going to be that “the situation was different”, how then is the situation in 2012 even remotely comparable to 2006? In 2006 and 2002 both Tymoshenko and Yushchenko were still around, whereas in 2012 neither is going to play a major part (one because he committed political suicide and the other because she is in prison) so on that level alone the situation is vastly different and if we can’t use other polls (except in specific ways to support of your theory) as the situation was “different” how then can we use the 2006 pre-election polls and the 2006 election to make any sort of estimation about the 2012 election from 2011 polls?

              • “As you are still using the pre-election 2006 polls and the 2006 elections to compare to the 2011 polls and make a case that the 2012 elections will go a certain way. If you can use 2006 polls, the 2006 election and the 2011 polls together to make an estimate for the 2012 elections then it is hypocritical (and highly hypocritical at that) to say that others cannot use other polls as well as other elections to make a different case about the 2012 elections.”

                It is not hypocritical to state that pre-election polls ought to compared to pre-election polls and final election results to final election results.

                Perhaps this will be easier to understand:

                35% 2006 prelection poll = 42% 2006 election result (and 54% of the seats in parliament)

                45% 2011 preelection poll = x 2012 election result

                We are trying to predict x. If in 2006 a prelection poll of 35% resulted in a result of 42%, a prelection poll of 45% will probably result in an election result of 52%.

                You wrote: “For instance you make the argument that the Orange parties usually pick up more of the undecided vote and that their actual electoral showing tends to be higher than their pre-election opinion poll showing, but then how do you account for the fact in 2002 the Orange parties were polling 33-35% before the election but received 30.9% in the actual election? How is that they lost support then?”

                Yushchenko, Tymoshenko and the Socialists (they were allies in 2002) collectively won 37.2% of the vote in 2002. The only opinion poll I saw, on the BBC website, didn’t include the Socialist Party in its results and gave a range of 32% to 35% for Our Ukraine and Tymoshenko combined – less than the total Orange result. Moreover, those polls seem to have been conducted by the parties themselves AFAIK, not by an outside source. See:

                http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/library/report/2002/OB91.pdf

                I suspect that the Orange parties were screwed a little in 2002, as they likely will be 2012. However, given that we now know that the prelection poll is 10% higher for the 2012 election than they were in BOTH 2006 and 2002, this suggests that the actual votes for the Orange parties will be much higher in 2012 than they were in either 2002 or 2006. Making falsification much less effective. So to add to what I posted in the beginning of this message:

                2002 prelection poll: 34% -> 37% final result

                2006 prelection polls 35% -> 42% final result

                2012 prelection polls 45% -> x final result.

                What do you guess x will be? I’m guessing 52%, which would translate into about 60% of the parliamentary seats. The only factor that may change this would be cheating by the authorities. Do you disagree?
                —————
                In another post you claimed about me: I don’t “know the difference between democracy and ochlocracy.”

                http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ochlocracy

                Ochlocracy (“rule of the general populace”) is democracy (“rule of the people”) spoiled by demagoguery, “tyranny of the majority” and the rule of passion over reason, …Ochlocracy is synonymous in meaning and usage to the modern, informal term “Mobocracy,” which emerged from a much more recent colloquial etymology.

                That’s funny, because on January 9th I wrote here: “Clearly, Yushchenko’s action was wrong because it was illegal, and illegal democratic actions are similar to mob rule.”

                The quote above also contradicts your slander against me that I was, in your words, “saying that the rule of law doesn’t matter as long as the will of the majority is maintained.”

                But I guess that when you’re wrong you have to resort to slander and personal attacks. Sorry, I’m not interested in that.

                Until you retract your slander against me, good bye and good luck to you.

              • “As you are still using the pre-election 2006 polls and the 2006 elections to compare to the 2011 polls and make a case that the 2012 elections will go a certain way. If you can use 2006 polls, the 2006 election and the 2011 polls together to make an estimate for the 2012 elections then it is hypocritical (and highly hypocritical at that) to say that others cannot use other polls as well as other elections to make a different case about the 2012 elections.”

                “It is not hypocritical to state that pre-election polls ought to compared to pre-election polls and final election results to final election results.”

                Yet here you are still using pre-election polls with final election results to make a case that because Orange parties got more of the undecided from the 2006 polls in the 2006 election then the same would apply for 2011/2012. You are being hypocritical.

                You wrote: “For instance you make the argument that the Orange parties usually pick up more of the undecided vote and that their actual electoral showing tends to be higher than their pre-election opinion poll showing, but then how do you account for the fact in 2002 the Orange parties were polling 33-35% before the election but received 30.9% in the actual election? How is that they lost support then?”

                “Yushchenko, Tymoshenko and the Socialists (they were allies in 2002) collectively won 37.2% of the vote in 2002.”

                The Socialists were never a true Orange party anymore than the Communists were and even the Communists were allies with Yushchenko and Tymoshenko in 2002…….

                “I suspect that the Orange parties were screwed a little in 2002, as they likely will be 2012.”

                Ah and here’s that excuse I figured you would offer….

                “However, given that we now know that the prelection poll is 10% higher for the 2012 election than they were in BOTH 2006 and 2002,”

                Hmmm….but only when you take into account a party whose alliance with the Orange parties was more an alliance of convenience than principle and whose electoral base has been wiped out due to disfavour and as voter apathy has been increasing (both 2002 and 2006 had voter turnouts of over 65%, 2012 is very unlikely to have that). Yeah, this is surely a logical thought process. Again you seem to be comparing periods which are different while telling others that we can’t use other opinion polls because the situations were different and/or that opinion polls can’t be used with actual election results.

                “2002 prelection poll: 34% -> 37% final result

                2006 prelection polls 35% -> 42% final result

                2012 prelection polls 45% -> x final result.

                What do you guess x will be?”

                I would guess x to be about 48-49% if Yanukovych’s disenchanted supporters don’t stay away or vote en masse for Orange parties in protest. The more likely scenario is that they don’t bother to vote (in which case the Orange parties could get over 55% of the voter easily). After that I would imagine the next likeliest scenario to be that they hold their noses and vote for PoR despite their disenchantment and after that the next likeliest scenario would be that they vote for alternatives to the PoR and the Orange parties and then after that they would probably vote for the Orange parties.

                By the way, how does the following opinion poll fit into your theory?

                http://www.ukrweekly.com/old/archive/2005/480507.shtml

                Razumkov Centre poll conducted between November 3-13, 2005:

                PoR – 17.5%
                BYuT – 12.4%
                OU – 13.5%

                Final election result four months later:

                PoR – 32.4%
                BYuT – 22.3%
                OU – 14%

                How do you account for the PoR and BYuT both getting a swing of 10% (or more) support? And why is it that the something similar could not happen in 2012 with an election that is nine months away? What excuse will you come up with to say that the November 2005 poll isn’t any good?

                And how do you account for the fact that not every PoR supporter actually opposed EU integration according to the Razumkov Centre as shown in the link below? (the relevant section has been quoted for you)

                http://www.razumkov.org.ua/eng/files/category_journal/NSD73_eng.pdf

                “The highest share of adherents of European integration is reported among the voters of “Nasha Ukraina” (73.5%) and Yuliya Tymoshenko’s Bloc (61.6%); its opponents are in a majority among the voters of the Party of Regions (62.3%), Nataliya Vitrenko’s Bloc (58.9%) and CPU (52.4%). ”

                If the PoR gets between 32-48% support in elections generally from 2006-2010 but only 62% of those are actually opposed to EU integration then what of the other 12-18% in total (32% – (62% of 32%) and 48% – (62% of 48%)) who didn’t oppose EU integration? Is it not possible that some of them actually want EU integration as well as close relations with Russia? And isn’t it very coincidental that the PoR now has support in the region of 12-18% and 12-18% of the electorate which would support the PoR is not opposed to EU integration and the PoR had been pursuing EU integration in government?

                “In another post you claimed about me: I don’t “know the difference between democracy and ochlocracy.” ”

                It’s obvious that you don’t. You even had to quote wikipedia for it. An ochlocracy is also referred to as “mob rule” and you know what happens in mob rule? The mob makes the rules as they go along and they can break the rules on a whim i.e. no rule of law. Since you seem to quaintly believe that one can have democracy without the rule of law, then what it is that you believe in is ochlocracy and not democracy. In an ochlocracy you have the tyranny of the majority. In a democracy you have the majority deciding the course of action of the polity but not at the expense of minorities, whose rights are protected under laws that everyone (including the majority of course) respect – i.e. rule of law.

                “The quote above also contradicts your slander against me that I was, in your words, “saying that the rule of law doesn’t matter as long as the will of the majority is maintained.” ”

                Which is funny because quite often you’ve used terms like “at least Yushchenko’s actions were democratic” which alone implies that you don’t believe the rule of law has anything to do with being democratic (otherwise how could you make such a statement?). From that statement alone it is easy to infer to you view the two as separate (plus there was the cute little episode when you were trying to argue that the dictionary definition of “democracy” and it’s Greek origins says nothing about the rule of law). It’s also easy to infer which you view as more important given your warped logic regarding Yushchenko’s actions and the rule of law (and I quote): “So if your measure of whether or not something is legal, is whether or not a Court explicitly ruled that it was illegal, than Yushchenko’s dismissal of parliament was legal.”

                “But I guess that when you’re wrong you have to resort to slander and personal attacks.”

                Again, says the person who had been trying to infer that Alexander was biased towards Yanukovych. Sorry, but when you can learn not to be hypocritical I’ll withdraw those statements. Til then I call as I see it.

      • “About EU support in Yanukovich’s camp – it seems that most people in Ukraine understand that whatever his rhetoric, Yanukovich’s policies (especally those concerning Tymoshenko) are keeping the EU distant. If people were really interested in the EU they would not support Yanukovich.”

        This makes a lot of suppositions:

        First it presupposes that voters must know that Yanukovych’s EU rhetoric is false but that his pro-Russia rhetoric is true. Given Yanukovych’s actual efforts in government I’m sure a lot of voters would be hard pressed to make this distinction as easily as you. After all how can they all think that Yanukovych’s policies keep the EU distant when in late 2010 an agreement was made for an “action plan for Ukraine toward the establishment of a visa-free regime for short-stay travel”? That is a very visible and real pro-EU policy move right there.

        Secondly it presupposes that voters who support the EU must be anti-Yanukovych, but in real life you can’t categorize people like that under neat little titles. Just as you can have Blue Dog Democrats (who are Democrats but favour some conservative/Republican ideas such as low taxes) it should be quite possible that some who support the EU will also support Yanukovych.

  15. “Also, if theoretically, the 27% undecideds stayed home and only the decided ones (45% ORanfge and 28% Blue) voted, the parliamentary vote would be 61.7% Orange and 38.3% Blue. A landslide..”

    Sure. No argument there. In fact I think that to be the most likely scenario for the Orange parties to get anything over 51-52% of the vote. It would be a landslide, but not one based on a change in voter preference but one based on voter apathy (which has been increasing it seems thank to Yushchenko, Tymoshenko and Yanukovych combined). In that case the Orange parties would be wise to make hay while the sun was still shining because such a landslide victory could well be reversed and we return to the regular 50/50 programming if the PoR gets its act together (probably by dumping Yanukovych).

    • We seem to generally agree here…due to eastern apathy Orange may have a greater-than-expected victory, though demographically it seems that the “Orange” side has a slight edge of 51/49 or 52/48. Yanukovich’s 3% victory in the last election was likely a fluke caused by Orange apathy (he won with less than 50% of the vote, with fewer votes than he had when he lost the previous election, with Yushchenko actively encouraging Western Ukrainians not to vote at all). He then used nonconstitutional means to flip the elected-Orange parliament and consolidate his rule. He’s trying to be a Putin or Lukashenko, without anything close to Putin’s or Lukashenko’s levels of popularity or legitimacy.

  16. Alexander Mercouris says:

    Dear AP,

    Again just to respond quickly to your latest comments:

    1. Selectivity is not a defence in law if Tymoshenko was convicted according to law. If she was not convicted according to law and if the prosecution brought against her was politically motivated the ECHR will set her conviction aside. Incidentally running symetrical parallel prosecutions of people from both camps in order to preserve some kind of political “balance” would simply confirm that the prosecutions were politically motivated and would render them all unsafe.

    2. I am afraid your understanding and recollection of the political crisis of 2007 differs from mine. Firstly, I did not think then and I do not think now that Yushchenko and Tymoshenko were justified in assuming that the Socialists were an Orange party that would automatically go into coalition with them. Secondly if Yushchenko’s reason for dissolving the parliament was the “defection” of the Socialists then the time to have done it was when the Socialist “defection” took place and not several months later after the new government had been formed (with Yushchenko’s agreemen!) and had got down to work. As I recall Yushchenko’s actual reason for dissolving the parliament was not the”defection” of the Socialists but the fact that the parliament was intent on passing laws that Yushchenko interpreted as a challenge to his power as President. If the dissolution decree was unconstitutional as you say then it cannot be called “democratic” for the reasons I discussed above. The same would be equally (not more) true of any ruse whereby Yanukovitch engineered the defection of individual Orange deputies to his side if that is indeed unconstitutional as you also say. However in that case I would expect it to be challenged in the Constitutional Court, which so far as I am aware has not happened. Yanukovitch has not attempted to sack Constitutional Court judges who were considering a case in which he was a party and who might have ruled against him as Yushchenko did. To repeat, it was that open attack by Yushchenko on the independence of the Constitutional Court and the EU’s indifference to it which was the starting point of my discussion.

    Since we appear to disagree on so much perhaps I ought to mention one thing we do appear up to a point to agree about though we draw quite different conclusions from it. You have said that it is the visible corruption of Yanukovitch and his team that has to a certain extent antagonised Ukrainian voters. I do not know how visible such corruption is and frankly I find your comparison of Yanukovitch with Khodorkovsky and Berezovsky overdrawn especially given that in 2004 Berezovsky by his own admission funded the Orange camp. However up to a point I agree with you. The whole thrust of my argument is that Yanukovitch has lost at least some of his support because he has disappointed his electoral base by subordinating its wishes to those of his wealthy oligarchic supporters, who are amongst the strongest supporters of EU membership probably because of their desire to get their hands on the structural funds.

    • Sorry, but selectivity is a defense in law. But i don’t know if it is a working defense in an Ukrainian court.

      • Alexander Mercouris says:

        Dear Charly,

        Please read my words carefully. What I said is that “selectivity is not a defence in law if Tymoshenko was convicted according to law”. That is the legal principle. It is not a defence to a charge of murder that other murderers are not prosecuted and go free and the same obviously applies to other offences including the offences for which Tymoshenko was convicted.

        Let me say again, the case will shortly go to the European Court of Human Rights. The legal process is not exhausted and the final decision has not yet been made. Everyone including the EU should respect this. Let’s wait and see what happens when the case gets there.

        On the question of the Ukraine I feel that we have discussed its politics from every possible angle. I obviously agree with Hunter’s overall conclusions and I think his discussions and analysis of the polls and the election results has been masterly. AP has of course also set out his opinions, which I note even if I don’t always agree with them. Let’s move on to something else.

        • It is a defense in a murder trial if other murderers are not prosecuted under the same circumstances.

          ps. I think this has to do with the local constitution. Some countries have this equality under the law defense and others don’t. My guess is the Anglosaxon justice system doesn’t because i can’t really find the English term for it.

          • Alexander Mercouris says:

            Dear Charly,

            I think what you are referring to is the principle of joint enterprise. This is where a group of people come together to form a criminal gang with a single criminal intention. If the gang murders someone whilst carrying out that intention, for example during a bank robbery, then all are equally guilty. If only one member of the gang is charged with murder but the others are not then the one who is charged with murder can cite the fact that the others are not in his or her defence.

            Obviously this is a very different situation from the one we are discussing in Tymoshenko’s case.

            • No, it is not what i mean. More like you can’t be arrested for smoking weed in Holland not because it is legal but because they haven’t arrested somebody for ages for it and so it should be unfair to prosecute only you for it

              • Alexander Mercouris says:

                Dear Charly,

                That is a question of policy rather than law. The authorities in Amsterdam and the Netherlands for a long time had a policy of basically looking the other way where soft drugs use was concerned. I gather that is changing now.

              • Hi, charly,
                I tried to use that defense once when I was stopped for speeding on a certain American highway. I told cop, “Hey, I wasn’t going any faster than any of the other cars around me, why you pull me over?”
                Cop replies: “Because you have bright yellow car, you were easy to follow and track on my radar.”
                I ask him defiantly: “Well, what if I decide to go to court and challenge this?”
                He replies: “Be my guest. [Sarcastically]: Judge will be very sympathetic to your ‘everybody was doing it’ defense.”
                At that point I laugh and give up. I sign speeding ticket. I was 10 mph over speed limit. And I had to pay fine of $150 American dollars. This is true story.

              • It is not the everybody else is doing it defense. It is somebody else is doing it and your only pick on me defense.

        • Alexander Mercouris says:

          Dear Charly,

          I admit I am struggling to follow you. Let me say it again, there is no defence of “selectivity” as such. What there is is a right to a fair trial. If someone is prosecuted not because of any crime he or she might have committed but for political reasons with the supposed crime being essentially a pretext then the trial is arguably unfair because there is no presumption of innocence and the outcome appears predetermined. The fact that other people who may have committed the same offence have not been charged with that offence may be evidence that the prosecution is politically motivated and of the unfairness of the trial but it does not provide a defence by itself. That is the thrust of the argument Tymoshenko and before her Khodorkovsky have been making and which they are taking to the European Court of Human Rights. Incidentally the right to a fair trial is enshrined in Article 6 of the European Convention of Human Rights. It is this Convention that the European Court of Human Rights was created to administer.

          By contrast I cannot think of a single country where it is possible to obtain an acquittal on the grounds that “someone else” who has supposedly committed the same offence in similar circumstances has not been prosecuted for it. Frankly I find such a concept inconceivable. How would a defendant, who is not a prosecuting authority, be able to show that another particular individual is guilty of an identical offence without infringing that individual’s right to a presumption of innocence? Alternatively if one relies on supposed general knowledge that “everyone knows” that “other people” are not being charged for the same offences then it is difficult to see how anybody could ever be convicted of anything at all.

          • There is a presumption of innocence, problem is the person is guilty just like most people who are prosecuted for murder have killed the victim.

    • 1. I concur with Charly. Selectivity based on factors such as race, religion, political orientation etc. with respect to prosecution is generally considered to be a legitimate defence. Yanukovich’s using the law to take out two prominant opposition political leaders (one whom, Lutsenko has not even been convicted but has been sitting in jail for almost two years awaiting trial. the other, Tymoshenko, leading the main oppsotion party and the front-runner in possible elections if she were not in jail), and several of their subordinates, while not touching anyone related to his party is pretty selective.

      2. I posted this somewhere in the mess previously in the comment section but will cut and paste here for the sake of convenience: When Socialist leader Moroz switched sides and joined the Party of Regions after the elections (even though he was assumed to have been on the ORange side by most of his voters, and many members of his party) he was legally “gaming the system” in order to maximize his personal power by switching sides. To his credit, Yushchenko initially tried to follow the rules and go along with this, by joining a super-coalition with the Party of Regions and the Socialists. However, over the following months it appears that Yushchenko’s party was being marginalized within the super-coalition, which was going about undoing the Orange Revolution by legislating the stripping of the presidential authority. Faced with that (a nondemocratic but totally legal parliamentary majority reversing de facto the people’s choice for president by making the presidency largely ceremonial), Yushchenko decided to act unconstitutionally to call new elections. If the Ukrainian people supported what the parliament was now trying to do in reversing the Orange Revolution, this would give the Ukranian people a chance to vote confirm such actions by voting out the Orange parties. Instead, the Ukrainian people voted out the Socialists and returned a slim Orange majority to power.

      Clearly, Yushchenko’s action was wrong because it was illegal, and illegal democratic actions are similar to mob rule. On the other hand, Yanukovich’s actions since his election were not only illegal but also anti-democratic. In both cases, btw, the courts proved to be nonindependent. Yushchenko fired judges who wouldn’t obey him, Yanukovch arrested the relatives of a judge to insure obedience.

      Btw, I’m reposting a picture of Socialist leader Moroz during the Orange Revolution. He’s on the left, with the white hair, standing next to Tymoshenko under the big Orange flag:

      http://euronest.blogspot.com/2010/04/ukraines-fractured-opposition.html

      • Alexander Mercouris says:

        Dear AP,

        This discussion is becomeing circular and I find I am repeating myself but here goes:

        1. Your point is not the same as Charly’s. Bringing a prosecution on the basis of sex, age, race, disability or sexual, religious or political orientation is not “selectivity” but discrimination. Discrimination is illegal and is indeed a criminal offence in many legal jurisdictions. Charly’s point is or appears to be the quite different one that there is some sort of defence of “selectivity” where a person charged with a crime is able to show that another person who has committed the same crime has not been charged with it.

        2. As I have repeatedly said if the European Court of Human Rights decides that the case that has been brought against Tymoshenko is politically motivated (as you appear to believe) then it will set her conviction aside because she will not have had a fair trial. In the meantime the legal process is not exhausted and given that it is not exhausted we should wait and see rather than seek to prejudge the decision of the Court. How often do I have to repeat this simple point before it is understood? In the meantime since it seems that we must discuss Tymoshenko’s case perhaps you can enlighten me on one particular point? Do you think Tymoshenko is innocent?

        3. Turning to the political crisis of 2007 it seems to me that you are falling into the trap that because you that Yushchenko unlike Yanukovitch is a “democrat” he anti should be given the benefit of the doubt in a way that Yanukovitch should not. This sort of reasoning is quite simply wrong. At the end of the day what makes a country a democracy is its constitution and its laws and the way they are enforced. That applies to the Ukraine as much as it does to any other country. If you are as I think an American you should appreciate this fact better than anyone else since it is the great achievement of your country to establish the world’s first functioning and fully successful democracy on the basis of its constitution and its laws. The guardian of the constitution is the President who swears an oath to uphold and defend it. If the President violates the constitution and breaks his oath and interferes with the system of justice to prevent his decisions being challenged in the way that Yushchenko did in 2007 and does so moreover in order to achieve a particular political objective his actions are not “democratic” but the opposite. As for your concept of “illegal/unconstitutional democratic behaviour” that quite simply is an oxymoron.

        4. This is not in any way to justify Yanukovitch’s actions since he became President. However since you press me I will say that in my opinion Yanukovitch’s actions are nowhere near as dangerous as Yushchenko’s. Political haggling of the sort of that happens in the Ukraine is unedifying but it happens often enough in Europe with deputies and parties in many European countries including Britain switching sides and forming new coalitions between elections on a pretty regular basis. If there is a law against it in the Ukraine then of course it should not happen but the right way to challenge such acts is through the Courts. What made Yushchenko’s conduct during the political crisis of 2007 so dangerous and so outrageous was not the dissolution decree itself but the repeated attempts Yushchenko made to prevent the decree from being challenged in a legal way in the Constitutional Court by his attempts to rig the membership of the Constitutional Court and by the cynical steps he took to obstruct its work. By acting in this wayYushchenko put himself above the law, which is not democratic but the opposite. So far Yanukovitch has done nothing that comes close and nor by the way when he was President did Kuchma. The equivalent would have been if Yanukovitch and Kuchma had sought in 2004 to prevent the Supreme Court from considering the case Yushchenko brought against the Central Electoral Commission over its conduct of the disputed Presidential elections.

        5. Lastly and quickly on the subject of the Socialists the mere fact that Moroz and the Socialists shared platforms with the Orange parties does not mean that the Socialists were an Orange party any more than the presence at the demonstration in Moscow on 10th December 2011 of a representative of the Russian Communist party sharing a platform with liberals such as Nemtsov and Kasparov mean that on major political issues the Communists and the liberals share the same views.

        • Alexander Mercouris says:

          Dear AP,

          I am sorry I have been having problems alll day with the internet connection to this blog. The result is that it is difficult to write comments and the first sentence of paragraph 3 got muddled. What it should say is:

          “3. Turning to the political crisis of 2007 it seems to me that you are falling into the trap that because you think that Yushchenko unlike Yanukovitch is a “democrat” he should be given the benefit of the doubt in a way that Yanukovitch should not”.

          Apologies for any confusion.

        • You are correct on 1. For an example. If a police department had a policy to only go after speeding cars if they are driven by blacks than that would be discrimination and as such a reason for dismissal but if a police department really had a policy that they will only go after yellow cars than that is not discrimination but it would be arbitrary and as such still a reason for dismissal as the law shouldn’t be arbitrary or arbitrary implemented.

          • Alexander Mercouris says:

            Dear Charly,

            It would not only be arbitrary but it would also be illegal. The police have a duty to prosecute crime and if they were not prosecuting drivers who were speeding because their cars were not yellow any concerned citizen affected by such malpractice would have a right to bring an action against the Police in England by way of Judicial Review. In the US and other countries the procedure is different but the principle is the same. We have just had an example in England where the politician John Prescott brought a successful claim in Judicial Review against the Police because they refused to investigate evidence that his phone had been hacked by the Murdoch organisation.

            However the fact that the Police were not prosecuting drivers of non yellow colours who were speeding would not provide a defence to drivers of yellow cars who were speeding. An offence would still have been committed and the misconduct of the Police in relation to other drivers of non yellow cars would not change that fact.

            • Alexander Mercouris says:

              Dear Charly,

              Just one final point about your comment, which I missed.

              If the Police had a policy of only prosecuting black people who were speeding that would indeed be illegal and discriminatory but as the black people who were speeding would still have committed a criminal offence it would not properly speaking be a defence. What it would give rise to is an action in discrimination by the affected black people against the Police. That would be a serious matter and the compensation awarded would be very high. It would also be gross misconduct by the Police officers involved who would surely be dismissed from their jobs.

              By contrast if the judge trying the case of the black people who were speeding was a racist so that the Court’s judgment was affected by anti black racial prejudice then even if the facts showed that the black people in question were speeding the convictions would have to be set aside because the trial would have been unfair.

              We are getting very far from the Tymoshenko case. Shall we in future focus on that?

            • The police has in most countries not the obligation to prosecute crimes. I believe Germany is an exception with this after the Nazi’s used selective prosecution to further their objectives.

          • Hi, charly, I appreciate your defending me against that unfair speeding ticket! But I think what that cop was trying to say (in his own brutish manner) was NOT that he only goes after yellow cars, but that he goes after easy prey. A friend told me that these American state troopers have a quota of speeding tickets to reach each month –the money is pure revenue which funds their departmental operations. When the trooper is out on the hunt, it is a cakewalk to meet his quota — so many speeders, so little time! For a while he will lurk in hiding, eating a box of donuts, watching speeders blur by but too lazy to go after them, then he looks at his watch, well, he needs to catch at least one more fish before lunchtime. He sees a brightly colored car zip by above the speed limit – so easy to spot and follow. So the cop crams his last donut into his mouth and lopes out into traffic, ready once more to cull the herd…
            Bottom line is, I WAS speeding. The cop had science on his side (=radar), and I would have no defense against that in court. Not even the fact that everybody else around me was speeding even more than me. How could I possibly prove that to the judge? And if I were black, how could I prove racial prejudice? I could not prove it with a single case. I would have to bring a group action, with many cases and proof in the form of statistical data.

            • There is a difference between yellow is more noticeable and yellow is the only color car who are ticketed. Your case was i presume the first and as such not a reason for dismissal

              • Alexander Mercouris says:

                Dear Charly,

                I am beginning to worry that this is becoming an increasingly esoteric discussion of little interest to anyone other than a lawyer.

                Briely, the police have a duty to prosecute crime. This is true in every country with a police force. If there was no such duty there would be nothing to stop the police drawing their salaries and sitting around in police stations doing nothing except reading newspapers and drinking coffee.

                The police do however a great deal of operational freedom in the way that they perform this duty. The law does not expect them to prosecute every single crime however trivial since it understands that this would be impossibly costly in terms of resources and in respect of trivial crimes frankly oppressive. Sometimes things go a bit further than that. I gave the example of the Netherlands where the police and the authorities had for a long time a policy of turning a blind eye to soft drugs use. Another example is the British obscenity law under which no prosecutions have been brought for a very long time.

                However in choosing how to exercise their operational freedom the police have to act in a lawful way. This means that they cannot exercise this freedom in a whimsical and arbitrary manner. Picking on drivers of yellow cars and ignoring identical offences committed by drivers of differently coloured cars is obviously arbitrary exactly as you say. It is therefore a straightforward breach of the duty to prosecute crime and is therefore illegal.

                There, I hope that clarifies the point finally and fully. Let’s move on to something else closer to the subject of Anatoly’s post.

              • The police is there to keep the order. Going after criminals is ancillary to that but not its purpose.

        • 1. I agree on your point.

          2. I think we can comment on the facts, and draw conclusions from them, before the European Court of Human Rights reaches a decision. Two major opposition leaders (as well as several of their subordinates) have been imprisoned, not a single figure with friendly ties to the government has been arrested. I doubt this is a coincidence. As for Tymoshenko’s innocence – it is largely irrelevant. Ukraine’s society is such that nobody with significant money is not guilty of something. She is probably guilty of many things; so is Yanukovich, so are his oligarch backers, etc. Ifnot only she but Yanukovich himself, his backer Akhmetov the richest man in Ukraine, etc. were all arrested I would not be complaining. But maybe that would lead to instability. Perhaps the right thing to do for the sake of stability in Ukraine is to declare an amnesty.

          In my opinion the real problem with her prosecution is that it is denying the Ukrainian people a choice in elections by taking out a relatively popular candidate, currently leading in the polls.

          3. Spoken like a good lawyer (I am not complaining about you! – it is the correct attitude for lawyers and it would be awful for them not to have such an attitude). I agree that clear rules that are respected and followed are important and essential for a government; the alternative is mob rule or dictatorship. But it is not necessarily, completely the same as democracy, which is defined as “government by the people; a form of government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised directly by them or by their elected agents under a free electoral system.” It can be reasonably argued that when a party leader stops representing his electors (the people) and indeed *goes against them* (as Socialist leader Moroz did when he switched sides and joined the Party of Regions) he is no longer acting democratically, even though he is acting legally. Yushchenko’s quandary in this specific situation was that on the one hand, what happened was legal while on the other, it was antidemocratic in the sense that it was contrary to the people’s wishes. For several months he tried not to make a decision, but when the nondemocratic but legal parliamentary majority started to strip away the powers of the elected president it was too much and he chose (rough) democracy over the law by calling new parliamentary elections to let the people, rather than Moroz, decide.

          In the long run it was a bad move because it further eroded the rule of law and set up a bad precedent that Yanukovich followed.

          4. Yushchenko vs. Yanukovich. You wrote “Political haggling of the sort of that happens in the Ukraine is unedifying but it happens often enough in Europe with deputies and parties in many European countries including Britain switching sides and forming new coalitions between elections on a pretty regular basis.” This applies to the what the Socialists did 5 years ago, but not to what Yanukovich has been doong since becoming president. In Ukraine (unlike, for example, in Canada)parliament members are not elected by the people – parties are. The parliament members are appointed by the parties to represent the parties. Their job is to represent their party. Most people do not even know who the parliament members are. Accordingly, the Constitution was quite clear that if an unelected member of parliament leaves his party he is no longer supposed to be in the parliament. Article 81 of the Constitution stated: “The authority of a People’s Deputy of Ukraine shall terminate prior to the expiration of his or her term in office in the event of:…6.his or her failure, as having been elected from a political party (an electoral bloc of political parties), to join the parliamentary faction representing the same political party (the same electoral bloc of political parties) or his or her exit from such a faction.” So if a member of parliament left his party, he was no longer supposed to be in the parliament. See here: http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Constitution_of_Ukraine,_2004. So the Ukrainian people elected a parliament with 156 people from Tymoshenko’s party 72 from Yushchenko’s Our Ukraine (a very slim majority of 228 out of 450 seats) but thanks to the illegal defections under Yanukovich, the parliament became one in which Yanukovich has about 260 votes. Here is an excellent summary of the situation in Ukraine:
          http://globalpolitician.com/26324-ukraine
          Despite our disagreement I highly respect your opinion and wonder what your thoughts are about that.

          5. The Socialists marched under an Orange flag arm-in-arm with Yushchenko and Tymoshenko. Nemtsov and Kasparov did not march under the hammer-and-sickly. Moreover, going into those 2006 elections, the Socialists were allies with Tymoshenko and Yushchenko. It was thus completely reasonable for voters to assume that the Socialists were part of the Orange coalition, which they did. As proof of voters’ assumptions – in the next parliamentary elections, after Moroz’s betrayal, the Socialsits’ voters abandoned them and the Socialists failed to clear the 3% hurdle to get into parliament at all.

          • Alexander Mercouris says:

            Dear AP,

            I will follow our existing numbering:

            1. We are agreed about this.

            2. Tymoshenko’s guilt or innocence is the issue. If she is guilty and has been properly convicted according to law then her conviction should stand. As I have laboured to point out it is not a defence that others might be equally or more guilty of criminal offences. Taking that approach would mean that no politician in the Ukraine however corrupt could be convicted of anything. A more certain way to entrench corruption I cannot imagine. Let me say it again if the European Court of Human Rights decides that her prosecution is politically motivated (and the fact that other Orange politicians have been prosecuted or imprisoned may be evidence of that) then Tymoshenko conviction will be quashed and she will be be awarded substantial compensation.

            I do not agree by the way that Tymoshenko’s imprisonment limits Ukrainians’ political choices. You have argued at length that the three parties we shall call Orange parties are presently outpolling Yanukovitch’s party and look set to win the parliamentary elections. This is happening with Tymoshenko in prison.

            3. It is not just a question of rules. Yushchenko’s major transgression was not the dissolution decree but the actions he took to rig the Constitutional Court and to prevent it from ruling on his decree. By taking this step Yushchenko put himself above the law, which is not merely a bad precedent but a step to dictatorship given what any constitutional law jurist or theorist will tell you, which is that the prerequisite of democracy is the rule of law and that democracy cannot exist without it. The doctrine was set out centuries ago by Lord Justice Coke addressing the ministers of James I: “Howsoever high you stand the law is above you”.

            I also have to take serious issue with your habit of putting “democrat” and “anti democrat” labels on Ukrainian politicians. I have already said why I think this leads you into error. As I have also said Yushchenko’s actions cannot by any stretch be considered “democratic”.

            As for the parliamentary coalition, the fact that it had disagreements with Yushchenko and was taking measures he didn’t like does not make it “anti democratic”. Nor does the fact that the Socialists were a part of that coalition render the coalition “anti democratic”. The Socialist party was an independent party and the Orange parties didn’t own it or own its votes and had no grounds to assume that it would enter into coalition with them no matter what they did. The Socialists were acting perfectly within their rights by going into coalition with Yanukovitch given that Yushchenko and Tymoshenko could not agree with each other and delayed the formation of a government for several weeks if not months.

            As I have said before (and as you appear to accept) such things happen pretty regularly in other countries. For example in Germany in the 1980s the Free Democrats switched sides between elections from the Social Democrats to the Christian Democrats. In Britain in the 1970s the Liberals midway through a parliamentary term in the 1970s entered into an informal coalition arrangement with Labour who they had opposed in the previous elections. Elsewhere in countries like Belgium this sort of thing goes on all the time.

            The fact that the Ukrainian Socialists paid a heavy political price for their decision to go into coalition with Yanukovitch does not make their action “anti democratic”. Nor does it mean that they were not entitled to make it. As I have said already the Orange parties did not “own” the Socialist parties or “own” its votes. The fact that the Socialists would have had to put their decision to their voters at the subsequent parliamentary election whenever that took place means that their decision however strongly it may be criticised cannot be called “anti democratic”.

            3. As I have said before I do not defend Yanukovitch. If I was advising the parties whose deputies have defected I would advise them to apply to the relevant Ukrainian court (presumably the Constitutional Court) for the defecting deputies’ mandates to be withdrawn. The mandates could then be handed out to other members of the parties to whom the defecting deputies originally belonged.

            Has this happened? If so do you know where I might be able to find in English a copy of the Court’s Judgment?

            4. I have already discussed the position of the Socialists at length and I don’t want to repeat myself.

            • Alexander Mercouris says:

              Dear Charly,

              Much as I admire your persistence in trying to prove the existence of a defence of selectivity I am afraid you are not going to persuade me.

              As for the police I think most lawyers and most policemen would be surprised to hear that their remit is to maintain order rather than prosecute crime given that in a democratic society the two cannot be separated.

              • Try upholding underage drinking laws in a college town and see how fast disorder grows.

                ps. I don’t see why you need to add democratic to society?

            • 2. Due to the fact that the law is clearly being applied selectively Tymoshenko’s guilt or innocence is largely irrelevant. I have no idea whether she is guilty or not. Past criminality is the best predictor of future criminality. As somene who became wealthy in the 90’s Tymoshenko is probably up to her ears in criminal behavior, so it is likley she was guilty of what she was charged with. On the other hand, Yanukovich’s judge’s decision that she was guilty means nothing with respect to her actual guilt.

              Tymoshenko’s conviction does limit the Ukrainian peoples’ choices – she is curently polling in first place, and so the people’s choice to choose her is obviously limited. Yes, they can choose others – but many of them want to choose her, and are not allowed to do so. If Obama imprisoned Mitt Romney, Republicans could still choose Gingrich or Santorum or Perry, but their choice would still be limited.

              3. I think you are confusing two different things: democracy and law and that this confusion leads you to make incorrect conclusions. Something can be legal but not democratic (i.e., North Korea’s justice system) and democratic but not legal (i.e., primitive democracies without constitutions, mob rule, etc.) Your confusion of democracy and legality has led you to the nonsensical (in my opinion) claim that somehow the Ukrainian snap parliamentary elections of 2007 which were declared generally free and fair by both Western and Russian observers were not democratic.

              Remember that democracy is rule by the people. What made the Socialists’ actions in 2006 undemocratic was not becuase Yushchenko didn’t like what they did but because the people (especially those who voted for the Socialists) did not like what the Socialists did. As proof – they threw out the Socialists in the democratic elections as soon as they got the chance to do so. I NEVER claimed that Yushchenko or Tymoshenko “owned” the Socialist votes. In a democracy, the *people* own those votes. And when given the chance in the democratic snap elections called by Yushchenko, the people took their votes away from the Socialists who betrayed them.

              I don’t disagree with your examples from Western countries of situations similar to that of the Ukrainian Socialists switching sides. The Socialist Party was elected by the people and it legally had the right to do what it wanted, even fool the people who voted for it. If the Free Democrats or British Liberal
              Parties betrayed their voters – did they? – then this demonstrates that in certain limited situations Western government isn’t always completely democratic either. But I suspect that unlike what the Ukrainian Socialsits did, the Free Democrats’s actions actually reflected the interests of their voters. People still voted for the Free Democrats after their switch, didn’t they?

              BTW, the Ukrainian Constitutional Court never declared those elections to be illegal and never declared the dismissal of the Ukrainian parliament to have been an illegal act (even though I agree with you that it surely was one). It ruled that Yushchenko’s dismissal of one of the three judges he dismissed was illegal, and reinstated her, but never ruled on the dismissal of parliament. So if your measure of whether or not something is legal, is whether or not a Court explicitly ruled that it was illegal, than Yushchenko’s dismissal of parliament was legal.

              BTW, during that crissi five Constitutional Court judges who were leaning towards Yushchenko, claimed that they were being placed under extreme pressure by Yanukovich and asked for armed guards to protect them. What do you think of that?

              4. The Yanukovich court dismissed the appeal and later eliminated that provision from the consitution. This “independent” court has never ever gone against the Yanukovich government on any matter. To insure compliance, Yanukovich fro example arrested the head of the court’s daughter. Here is an interview with Ukraine’s former Chief Justice:

              http://www.kyivpost.com/news/nation/detail/96885/

              (his daughter’s case was dismissed the day after he met with Yanukovich, and he has subsequently left the Court)

              • Alexander Mercouris says:

                Dear AP,

                2. We are back to selectivity. The point has been argued at length and I do not want to go on repeating myself. Let me say it I hope for one last time: the fact that others might have committed crimes does not or should not confer immunity on Tymoshenko for any crimes she has committed. Similarly the fact that Tymoshenko is an important politician does not or should not confer immunity on her for any crimes she has committed. To argue otherwise on the basis that this somehow limits the Ukrainian people’s democratic choice is to put politicians above the law.

                I do not want to go on repeating myself. I would ask you however to consider what the effect is of what you saying. What you are saying is that because Tymoshenko is a prominent politician she should be allowed to go free and participate in the Ukraine’s political process even if she is a criminal and is guilty not just of the crimes for which she has been convicted but it seems of even worse crimes. If that doctrine is ever adopted then all I can say is poor Ukraine.

                Lastly I would ask you please to stop labelling people. Comments like “Yanukovitch judge” are totally unwarranted and pre judge the decision of the European Court of Human Rights. In this case you have even less cause to attach this label given that you concede the possibility that Tymoshenko might be guilty in which case logically you should also concede the possibility that she might have had a fair trial.

                3. Please do not attribute to me arguments I have never made. I have NEVER said that the parliamentary elections that took place in 2007 were undemocratic. What I have said is that when the President of a country acts in a deliberately unconstitutional way in violation of his oath and then abuses his power as President to prevent the country’s Constitutional Court from ruling on his actions going even so far as to try to change the composition of the Court whilst the case is underway then the President is putting himself above the law and his actions are not democratic but the opposite.

                Whether Yanukovitch was also putting pressure on the judges is totally irrelevant to this point whilst the reason the Constitutional Court never in the end made a decision is because Yushchenko’s actions prevented it from doing so.

                I am not going to get into another discussion about the Socialists. What they did is perfectly normal in parliamentary systems. The perfectly legal and constitutional actions of the Socialists in no way justify the entirely illegal and unconstitutional actions of the President and anyway I would repeat they were not the reason for Yushchenko’s dissolution decree.

                4. I would again repeat my comment about your habit of attaching labels in this case “Yanukovitch court”. Doing so only calls into question your own objectivity.

                I would very much like to see a copy of the relevant Court judgment if it exists in English. Do you know where I can get one? Alternatively if you can send me the Court Judgment in Ukrainian I might be able to get a translation even if only a machine translation.
                I say all this because I doubt that the position is quite as clearcut as you say though I want to make it very clear that I am not in the business of defending Yanukovitch and I never have been. As for the change to the Constitution that you mention that seems to me an entirely internal matter of the Ukraine, which on the face of it and based on the information you have provided has brought the Ukraine into line with other parliamentary systems.

                As to the comments of the judge of the Supreme Court I am not going to comment on them because I do not know the full facts and you have only provided me with his side of the story. The matter anyway is wholly irrelevant to what we have been discussing especially as I have never been in the business of defending Yanukovitch though I note with some concern an earlier comment of Hunter’s which said that this judge has been publicly identified as a Tymoshenko supporter.

              • Alexander Mercouris says:

                Dear AP,

                “…if your measure of whether or not something is legal, is whether or not a Court explicitly ruled that it was illegal, then Yushchenko’s dismissal of parliament was legal”

                This reasoning is so grotesque that when I first read it it left me speechless. Suffice to say that it is a classic though extreme example of a non sequitur drawing an obviously false conclusion that simply does not follow from the preceding fact.

                I would ask you to take a step back. It seems to me that you are letting your obviously very strong and sincerely held partisan feelings in this matter cloud your judgement causing you to make absurd propositions like this one which I am sure on reflection you would not want to make.

              • Alexander,

                I am not saying thst because Tymoshenko is a famous politican she should go free; rather, that because she is a famous politician she ought not to be singled out for prosecution that the results of such prosecution ought to be rescinded. In America, AFAIK, if a search or other procedure is deemed unlawful any results of that procedure are thrown out (“fruit from the poisoned tree”). So if her prosecution was politically motivated (as indeed shown by the facts) then its results ought to be thrown out. If the prosecutor was randomly prosecuting powerful people in Ukraine, and Tymoshenko happened to be one of the targets of an investigation that hit people from all sides, this would be fair and just. Unfortunately, the prosecutions consist of simply taking out Yanukovich’s political rivals.

                (by the way, the Tymoshenko case was initiated by that great upholder of the law, Yushchenko)

                3. You wrote:
                “I have NEVER said that the parliamentary elections that took place in 2007 were undemocratic. What I have said is that when the President of a country acts in a deliberately unconstitutional way in violation of his oath and then abuses his power as President to prevent the country’s Constitutional Court from ruling on his actions going even so far as to try to change the composition of the Court whilst the case is underway then the President is putting himself above the law and his actions are not democratic but the opposite.”

                Yes, his actions were above the law but how can calling democratic elections be “the opposite” of democratic? This is simply an example of democracy contradicting the law. It’s not difficult to understand, if you do not confuse democracy and law.

                I agree with you that “The perfectly legal and constitutional actions of the Socialists in no way justify the entirely illegal and unconstitutional actions of the President.” I only point out that Yushchenko’s action was not only illegal and unconstitutional but also democratic. In contrast, Yanukovich’s actions have not only been illegal and unconstitutional, they have also been anti-democratic.

                I couldn’t find the court’s decision in my quick search but here is an article about it:

                http://www.razumkov.org.ua/eng/news.php?news_id=333

                Basically, the Court decided that each member of parliament is his own party and thus he may switch. Very convenient and creative interpretation of Article 81 of the Constitution which states: “The authority of a People’s Deputy of Ukraine shall terminate prior to the expiration of his or her term in office in the event of:…6.his or her failure, as having been elected from a political party (an electoral bloc of political parties), to join the parliamentary faction representing the same political party (the same electoral bloc of political parties) or his or her exit from such a faction.”

                Clearly, according to the Constitution, if a member of parliament leaves his party he must resign. This is logical, because the people voted for parties not for individuals and the members of parliament have the specific job of representing the parties – not themselves. Nobody voted for them, after all.

                Here are some expert legal opinions:

                http://glavcom.ua/articles/480.html

              • Alexander Mercouris says:

                Dear AP,

                You truly are going round in circles now:

                2. Every point you are making will be considered by the European Court of Human Rights. As I have repeatedly said (I have lost count how often) if the European Court of Human Rights finds that Tymoshenko’s prosecution was politically motivated and concludes that she did not get a fair trial it will declare her conviction unsafe and order it quashed and will award her compensation. Why do you persist in trying to pre judge the decision of the European Court of Human Rights when the legal process is ongoing and incomplete?

                3. I am confusing nothing and again you are responding to an argument I have never made. I have never said or implied that it is undemocratic to call an election. What I do say is undemocratic and what definitely is undemocratic is when in a democracy the President who is the guardian of the Constitution and of the law puts himself above the law. What you do not seem to want to accept or understand is that democracy is a system of government that is based on law. Take the law away and what you are left with is no longer a democracy. If a country’s President puts himself above the law then he is putting democracy at risk and his actions can in no way be called democratic whatever excuses or justifications are made for him.

                4. The link you previously provided about the Consitutional Court Judgment does not tell me very much and the other link about the legal opinions is inaccessible to me since I cannot read Ukrainian.

                I do not want to fall into the trap that you have fallen into of trying to excuse behaviour that is inexcusable and probably illegal. What I would say is that on the face of it this all looks far less serious and far less dangerous than Yushchenko’s actions in 2007. A group of deputies appear to have gone over to Yanukovitch’s side, something which by the way would have been their decision not his even if he inspired it. That decision was challenged in the Constitutional Court which duly delivered its Judgment. That Judgment may be wrong, Court Judgments (including US Supreme Court Judgments) often are, but there is no suggestion here that anybody least of all Yanukovitch has put themselves above the law.

              • Interestingly, this is not Tymoshenko’s first brush with the law. Here is what the BBC wrote about her in a 2002 article:

                “The Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc is led by the eponymous Ms Tymoshenko, archcritic of the president and one of the most colourful and controversial Ukrainian politicians.
                Ms Tymoshenko headed the national gas company and was deputy premier under Viktor Yushchenko.

                She is standing on an anti-corruption ticket but is herself under prosecution for alleged embezzlement at the gas company, and was briefly jailed last year.

                She says the charges are politically motivated.”

                The more things change, the more they stay the same.

              • “(by the way, the Tymoshenko case was initiated by that great upholder of the law, Yushchenko)”

                Hmm….if Tymoshenko was under investigation over corruption with a gas company from as far back as 2002 (under Kuchma) and fell under investigation again by Yushchenko (after 2002 but before 2010) and had the prosecution completed under Yanukovych (2010-2011) then she is either really corrupt or really targeted (it could well be both as either possibility is not mutually exclusive).

              • Alexander:

                2. And, as I have said, we have the right to look at facts and draw logical conclusions even before the European Court of Human Rights issues its decision.

                3. You wrote: “What I do say is undemocratic and what definitely is undemocratic is when in a democracy the President who is the guardian of the Constitution and of the law puts himself above the law. What you do not seem to want to accept or understand is that democracy is a system of government that is based on law. Take the law away and what you are left with is no longer a democracy.”

                The actual defintion of democratric is: “1. (Philosophy) (Government, Politics & Diplomacy) of, characterized by, derived from, or relating to the principles of democracy.”
                2. (Government, Politics & Diplomacy) upholding or favouring democracy or the interests of the common people

                The English-language definition of democracy is: 1. Government by the people, exercised either directly or through elected representatives.
                2. A political or social unit that has such a government.
                3. The common people, considered as the primary source of political power.
                4. Majority rule.

                No mention of the words “law” here. There is mention of concepts such as “by the people”, “majority rule”, “common people as source of political power, (hmm, who are the common people, Socialist party leader Moroz or the voters of Ukrane?)” etc.

                Clearly Yushchenko’s illegal action was democratic, at least as the word democratic is understood in the English language (perhaps it has a different meaning in your native language?). He disbanded parliament that no longer reflected the opinion of the PEOPLE and called fair and free elections so that the people could choose their government. His actions insured that the common people, rather than party bosses cutting deals, were the “primary source of political power.” Quite democratic indeed. I hope this has been cleared up?

                As for accusations of partisanship – I am no fan of Yushchenko and as I’ve stated several times what he did was wrong because it was illegal. I’m just pointing out that what he did was democratic, even though illegal. I hope partisanship doesn’t play a role in your own confusion with respect to the idea of democracy.

                ————-

                Hunter: Tymoshenko was arrested the second time not for corruption per se but for “abuse of office” – essentially her crime was making a deal with Putin that Yushchenko didn’t like. That deal involved cutting out a middleman with ties to both Yushchenko and Yanukovich, costing him (and allegedly but has not been proven perhaps them too) a lot of money.

              • Alexander Mercouris says:

                Dear AP,

                2. The trouble is that you are not “drawing logical conclusions from the facts”. As I have pointed out to you previously since you concede the possibility that Tymoshenko might be guilty you should logically concede the possibility that she might have had a fair trial and has been properly convicted.

                What you are actually doing is not making any “logical conclusions” but drawing what may turn out to be mistaken inferences from incomplete facts. That is exactly the mistake many people made in the first Khodorkovsky case when the final judgment proved them wrong. Why not give the matter a rest, let the law take its course and wait for the final judgment of the European Court of Human Rights?

                3. In trying to separate democracy from law you are fighting a hopeless cause. I do not know by the way where you got your definitions of democracy from but forgive me if I say that they look to me a little like dictionary definitions in which case they are of little use in any discussion of constitutional theory. Let us start instead with the earliest known definition of democracy by a constitutional theorist, in this case Aristotle:

                “A democracy is a state where the free men and the poor, being in the majority, are invested with the power of the state….The most pure democracy is that which is so called principally from that EQUALITY which prevails in it; for this is what the LAW in that state directs; that the poor shall be in no greater subjection than the rich; nor that the supreme power shall be lodged in either of these, but that both shall share it. For if LIBERTY and EQUALITY as some persons suppose, are chiefly to be found in a democracy, it must be so by every department of government being alike open to all; but as the people are the majority, and what they vote is LAW, it follows that such a state must be a democracy” (Politics, book iv, ch.4, 1290b 1291b).

                Here we have all the elements of democracy namely

                1. Equality of rights enforced by law;
                2. Equal access to all levels and bodies of power enforced by law;
                3. Law as the expression of the people’s will expressed through the vote of the majority.

                Aristotle was writing at a time of direct democracy before the development of representative institutions in the light of which 3 has been modified. The best expression of this is Article 6 of the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen of 1791:

                “Law is the overt expression of the general will. All citizens have the right to participate in legislation, either in person or through their representatives.”

                The fact that in a democracy the people are the ultimate source of law and that law is the expression of their will and that this is how in a democracy the people exercise their power and control the government also finds its way into the US Declaration of Independence

                “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness, That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted amongst Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter and to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundations on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness”

                Consequent upon this Declaration and general democratic principles the preamble to the US Constitution is careful to confirm that it is the people that has established the Constitution and through the Constitution ultimately the laws of the United States:

                “We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America”

                Accordingly since for there to be a democracy there must be equality of citizens before the law and enforced by law it follows that any state official who sets himself up as above the law, as Yushchenko did in 2007, cannot be acting democratically. Also since in a democracy the law and the constitution are the expression of the people’s will it must also follow that any state official who deliberately violates the law and who breaks his oath by violating the constitution is going against the people’s will and is also not acting democratically.

                If you want a further fuller discussion of the supremacy of law in a democracy and of the vital importance of state officials adhering to the law and of the danger to democracy when they don’t even in such cases as when the law is wrong or bad I would refer you to Abraham Lincoln’s 1838 lecture to the Young Men’s Lyceum in Springfield, which is too lengthy to set out here.

                I would conclude by saying that democracy is a Greek not an English word and much as I admire your courage in arguing definitions of Greek words with a Greek and constitutional theory with an admittedly long since retired constitutional lawyer you really are taking on a battle that in the end you simply cannot win. Given that as I understand it you do not even like Yushchenko or approve of what he did in 2007 I am somewhat baffled why you should even try.

              • Alexander,

                Thank you for the polite reply, and the interesting information in your reply. It seems that the crux of our problem is that we have been debating on two different levels. When I use the terms democracy and democratic I use them in the sense of normal English-language usage, not in the sense of legal terminology/jargon. Sometimes (I see this in the medical field) professional understanding of terms does not correspond to standard usage of those terms. Moreover, as you undoubtedly know, words frequently have different meanings in different languages. In the standard English language, democracy and democratic refers to rule by the people. This is the way I use the term, according to the dictionary definition. Not according to constitutional lawyers’ professional jargon.

                By calling new elections, Yushchenko committed an illegal act for which he deserves condemnation, because he went against the constitution; however, what he did was also demcoratic, in that he gave the power of choosing the parliament into the hands of the people expressed through free and fair elections. That power was legally taken away from them when the party boss Moroz switched sides to gain more power and attain for himself the position of speaker of parliament.

                So let’s clarify something. It seems that within the field of constitutional law, something that is unconstitutional cannot be democratic, because democracy depends on law. Is that a correct understanding?

                Now – the free and fair Ukrainian elections were conducted because of an illegal act – the disolution of the previous parliament. That parliament was illegally disbanded in order to have new elections. Therefore, according to a purely legal undertanding, were those free and fair elections not democratic because they were illegal?

                Finally, I am arguing English language words, not Greek ones. I do not presume to tell you what democracy means in the Greek language today or 2300 years ago. I am using the English word “democracy.” And I am not arguing constitutional law (indeed, we seem to agree that what Yushchenko did was unconstitutional) but again, normal English language understanding of the situation and whether or not it was democratic.

                Just because I am not a fan of Yushchenko does not mean that I ought to cease being objective about him.

              • A further thought about Yushchenko. That he has operated against the law seems clear. In so doing he contributed to the lawlessness and legal nihilism that characterise Ukraine today. For that he can only be condemned. However he has also been consistently democratic. When the parliament switched due to Socialist party boss Moroz’s deal, one which contradicted the will of the people who had voted for the Socialists, Yushchenko ultimately illegaly disbanded the parliament, an act supported by the Ukrainian people. According to this poll, 60% of Ukrainians supported what Yushchenko did:

                http://en.for-ua.com/news/2007/04/16/135558.html

                “According to the poll, 60 per cent of the respondents consider that by issuing the decree, Yushchenko wanted to ensure the observance of human rights and put an end to the usurpation of power.”

                Yushchenko then called new elections. to give the power to the people rather than to the political bosses, and the elections he supervised were free and fair. Similarly, the presidential elections that Yushchenko lost were free and fair, and Yushchenko in accordance with the will of the people handed power over to Yanukovich.

                I am not proposing that he is a saint of democracy; probably he preferred Yanukovich to Tymoshenko, so his adherence to the democratic process was convenient. But Yushchenko was a bit of a complex political figure.

              • Alexander Mercouris says:

                Dear AP,

                Democracy means the same thing in any language, be it English, Greek, Russian, Tibetan or Swahili. The only reason I pointed out to you that it is originally a Greek word is because of your frankly reckless attempt to enlist the English language to support your argument. Nor did I use jargon unless you are accusing Aristotle, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Abraham Lincoln and the authors of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen of using jargon. Nor are we arguing on different plains.

                The problem is that in your anxiety to defend Yushchenko’s you have hit on what you appear to think is a clinching argument that his actions were “democratic” and in order to sustain this argument you have to interpret democracy in a particular way. The result is that you do not think through the implications of many of the things that you say. For example you say that in plain English democracy is “rule of the people” and “rule by the majority” but you refuse to consider what these statements mean or how they contradict your own argument. How can the people rule and how can the majority make and impose its decisions except by law? What value do those decisions have if they do not have the force of law?

                If you stand back and think about it you will see that in reality statements about democracy being “rule by the people” and “rule by the majority” contain within themselves the very point I have been trying to make to you and which you seem determined to resist, which is that democracy is a system of government based on law and that lawless acts cannot ever be democratic.
                What happened in 2007 was that Yushchenko decided to dissolve a democratically elected lawfully constituted parliament in a manner that the constitution did not permit and then prevented the Constitutional Court from performing its function by ruling on his decision. The previous decision of the Socialists to go into coalition with Yanukovitch did not justify these illegal acts since as you admit yourself what the Socialists did was allowed by the Constitution and was perfectly legal and was not therefore undemocratic. Nor did the fact that the political crisis in the end was resolved by an election or that Yushchenko sought to justify his actions by saying that he wanted to call an election make his actions democratic since according to the Ukraine’s constitution calling an election was not Yushchenko’s decision to make. Nor does the fact that the decision might have been popular make it democratic. Dictators often make decisions that are popular but that does not make those decisions democratic any more than it makes the dictators who make them democrats. Nor does the fact that the Socialists lost support in a bitterly contested election in which Ukrainian society was further polarised by Yushchenko’s illegal and unconstitutional behaviour justify that behaviour. As to whether Yushchenko acted in a democratic way on other occasions that is wholly irrelevant to this discussion, which is about what he did in the political crisis of 2007.

                One of the most upsetting features of politics in the former Soviet political space is the way in which democracy is repeatedly reduced to a slogan and used as a political football to justify the most atrocious acts. Treating democracy in this way is disastrous and is one reason why politics in places like the Ukraine have become so dysfunctional. The English writer Samuel Johnson once said that “patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel”. If one substitutes the word “democracy” for “patriotism” this is all too often true of the former Soviet space. Do not try to grant Yushchenko this refuge.

              • Alexander Mercouris says:

                Dear AP,

                A minor point. If my recollection is correct then the parliamentary elections that eventually took place in 2007 did not take place as a result of Yushchenko’s original illegal dissolution decree but as a result of an agreement negotiated by Yushchenko and Yanukovitch and were therefore formally agreed to by the parliament. As a consequence of this agreement the elections did not take place on the date originally envisaged by Yushchenko but several months later.

                I do not wish to dwell on this because it is largely irrelevant to the point I am making. What was undemocratic was the attempted illegal dissolution of a democratically elected parliament and the steps taken to prevent the Constitutional Court from ruling on it not the calling of the elections.

                I note by the way with dismay that you persist in saying that the elections that happened in 2007 were illegal even though I have already pointed out to you that I have never said or implied such a thing and nor so far as I know has anyone else. What was illegal was Yushchenko’s attempt to dissolve a democratically elected parliament not the elections that followed later.

              • Alexander,

                Spoken like a true patriot of your profession, and very well said. To the consitutuional lawyer, democracy cannot exist without law.

                But this is not a legal blog, and the English-language understanding of the word democracy is not dependent on the law. Indeed, the law is not even mentioned in the webster’s dictionary definition of democracy, which I remind you is:

                1.a : government by the people; especially : rule of the majority

                2. b : a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections

                No mention here of law or that democracy must be dependent on the law. Sorry. I’m not sure why you brought Aristotle into this. I am not arguing about Aristotle’s idea of democracy but the modern one as reflected in the definition of that word as currently used. Nor that of lawyers such as Abraham Lincoln.

                There are many cases where professional jargon does not match standard usage. For example, for criminal lawyers insanity has a different meaning than it does in standard usage. But I digress.

                You repeatedly claim that I am trying to justify Yushchenko’s action. I am not, and have stated so numerous times. The only thing I defend is accuracy and a proper label on his actions, which were quite democratic. That is, a government by the people and in which the power is in the hands of the people. Yushchenko did not become dictator after dissolving the parliament; nor did he create fake elections to give his party power against the wishes of the people. Instead, he disbanded a parliament that ceased representing the people’s will (an act supported by 60% of the population, according to polls) and oversaw free and fair elections in order to elect a parliament that reflected the people’s will, unlike the previous one which had after Socialiat leader Moroz’s switch no longer represented the people’s will (something that happeend very legally!).

                Your inability to be able to come to terms with the fact that law and democracy are not always the same thing prevent you from understanding the realtively simple fact that the law ceased being democratic when Moroz betrayed the people and switched sides, while Yushchenko’s illegal act was also very democratic. The parliament with Yanukovich as PM was *legal* but *not democratic*, because the people did not vote for a Blue majority; they voted for a Socialist party based on the reasonable assumption* that their vote was going to an ally of Yushchenko and Tymoshenko. This is reflected in the fact that 60% of the Ukrainian people supported that the dissolution of that legal but nondemocratic parliment, and in the fact that in the next elections the now-Blue-allied Socialists didn’t make it into the parliament (its voters, were given the chance by the democratic Yushchenko to vote for parties that reflected their wishes). I understand that for some lawyers the law can be more important than reality – a murderer is not really a murderer if he is not convicted, and parliament that reflects the opposite of the people’s will is democratic as long as the uinpopular, unelected majority came to power through some completely legal trick. This is frankly doublespeak or the abuse of the word democracy – to refer to a parliament that the people oppose, and that came about through a deal opposed by those who elected it – as democratic merely because the maneuvers that led to the new majority were legal.

                Anyways, essentially, Yushchenko, who as president was supposed to defend the Constitution, chose instead to defend democracy at the expense of the Constitution, when the Constitution failed to safeguard against backroom deals by party bosses acting against the wishes of those who voted their party into parliament.

                In a situation where the law prevented the people from ruling and the law prevented people from making and imposing their decisions, Yushchenko acting as defender of democracy broke the law by dissolving the unpopular parliament, in order to call new elections in order to give power back to the people.

                As for the 2007 elections – they would not have happened if not for the dissolution of parliament. So whatever they were, they were clearly the fruit of an illegal act. They were Yushchenko’s.

                *a reasonable assumption because the Socialists and Tymoshenko had been allied since 2002, and Moroz was one of the figures prominant during the Orange Revolution.

              • “How can the people rule and how can the majority make and impose its decisions except by law?”

                Alexander, there is another way the majority can impose its decision (other than by law of course), but it’s not called democracy. The closest examples I can think of would have been the Jim Crow era in the United States and the 1990s in Rwanda where representatives of the majority population imposed it’s will on a minority population and the rest of the majority population went along with it or even supported it for a while. “Democracy” for some of course is no real democracy at all. Under those conditions of course, blatantly illegal acts (like lynching, rape, imprisonment on false charges (or sometimes no charges), disenfranchisement etc) were tolerated and sometimes even encouraged or officially sanctioned. Thank God that the world has generally moved on from that form of governance (though minorities (ethnic, religious and political) still face many obstacles in many nations unfortunately).

              • Alexander Mercouris says:

                Dear AP,

                Just as democracy means the same in any language so it means the same in any time or place. If you do not like Aristotle because you think he is too old an authority then try Abraham Lincoln whom I have also referred you to and who says precisely the same thing unless of course you want to argue that Abraham Lincoln is also too old an authority in which case good luck to you.

                You complain about my references to law. This discussion however began as a discussion about the independence of the Ukrainian courts, which is a legal issue. You then introduced democracy into it giving definitions of democracy which you wilfully misunderstand and interpret wrongly in basic ways. All I have done is to try to correct your misunderstandings of your own definitions. However your response when these misunderstandings are pointed out to you is simply o repeat your original definitions leaving all your original misunderstandings unchanged.

                Not only do you wilfully misunderstand what democracy is but you misrepresent the actions of the Socialists in 2006 as undemocratic even after it has been repeatedly pointed out to you that the Socialists were elected to parliament in 2006 as an independent party and that their subsequent decision to go into coalition with Yanukovitch was in accordance with international practice and was in accordance with the constitution and the law and cannot therefore be undemocratic. Despite the fact that you admit that the Socialists are an independent party you insist that in 2006 they were somehow obliged to go into coalition with the Orange parties even whilst you admit that the Orange parties do not own the Socialists or their votes, which must be the case since if Socialist voters were Orange voters they would have voted for Orange parties.

                You then seek to excuse Yushchenko’s illegal and unconstitutional acts by reference both to your mistaken definitions of democracy and to the behaviour of the Socialists which you wilfully misrepresent and persist in doing so even after it has been explained to you that the behaviour of the Socialists was not in fact the reason for Yushchenko’s illegal acts.
                As for the argument that Yushchenko’s unconstitutional behaviour can somehow be excused by reference to the will of the people the argument that a political leader is unconstrained by law so long as he acts in accordance with what he takes to be the will of the people is not a democratic one but a fascist one as any historian or political or constitutional theorist will tell you.

                Lastly I have never said or implied that Yushchenko was a dictator. What I have said and what I continue to say is that for the many reasons I have given you his actions in 2007 were not democratic, which is what you persist in defiance of all evidence and logic in trying to say.

                @Hunter,

                You are of course absolutely right in what you say. None of the examples of behaviour that you have cited are or can be defined as democratic. No one in their right minds would for example call the Jim Crow laws democratic since they violate the fundamental democratic principle of equality. I have avoided making reference to these sort of practices in this discussion up to now in order to avoid inflaming it beyond the point it has become inflamed already.

              • Alexander Mercouris says:

                Dear AP,

                I want to touch briefly on one other false proposition you persist in making. You persist in saying that when the Socialists went into coalition within Yanukovitch the parliament became “legal” but “undemocratic”.

                The proposition is absurd. The parliament was democratically elected by the Ukrainian people for a four year in accordance with the constitution. The Socialists as an independent party were elected to it. As an independent party they exercised their independence by going into coalition with Yanukovitch as they were fully entitled to do. They did this when they became fed up with Yushchenko’s and Tymoshenko’s failure to agree on a government. In doing so they went into coalition with what was the biggest party in the parliament. To say that this made the parliament “legal” but “undemocratic” is absurd just as it is absurd to argue that this somehow excused or justified the parliament’s illegal dissolution before the term the Ukrainian people had elected it for had ended.

                I have already responded to your comments about the irrelevance of popularity of Yushchenko’s decision and about the subsequent election to the question of whether what he did was or was not democratic and rather than repeat myself I would refer you to my earlier comments.

                As for your extraordinary comment that for “lawyers” a murderer is not “really” a murderer unless convicted this is another of those amazing comments you are given to making which quite literally leave me speechless.

              • Alexander,

                I’m afraid you persist in confusing legality with democracy, and the law with rule by the people. There is a nice English expression – to a hammer everything is a nail. I suppose for some lawyers, everything must be by the law for it to be “real.” So when the majority of people want something, and the president gives it to them – disbanding an unpopular parliament that no longer reflects the people’s wishes and replacing it with another parliament through a free and fair election! – this is not democracy to you, because it is illegal. Even though it meets the English-language definition of democracy – rule by the people, power to the people, etc.

                Indulge me please, by answering a couple questions. Do you believe that it is democracy if in parliament, the people’s will is directly negated through a completely legal maneuver by those whom the people elected but who after the election betrayed the will of the people for their own purposes? That as long as the rules are followed no matter what happens it is democracy? Do you believe it is democracy when the people who oppose and hate X vote for Y assuming that Y will oppose X, and that after getting voted in, Y turns around and joins X to the horror of most of those who elected Y?

                Secondly, do you believe that it is undemocratic to follow the people’s will by disbanding an unpopular parliament in order to call free and fair elections so the people have a chance to choose another one?

                Please do not try to artifically separate the two actions – disbanding the parliament and calling elections. I understand doing so may be convenient for your position but in the real world – Ukraine in 2007 – the two events were completely linked. Yushchenko disbanded the parliamenent precisely in order to have new elections, and new elections would have been impossible had he not disbanded that previous parliament. The delay between the disbanding of the parliament and the new elections was completely due to attempted obstruction by the Party of Regions.

                Also, please no implied comparisons of Yushchenko to fascists, to Rwandan genocidists (!) or Jim Crow (!). All the guy did by breaking the law was to let the people vote for a parliament that reflected their wishes, and not have them sit with a parliament that worked against their wishes for four years as mandated by the Constitution. The people didn’t want to kill minorities, they didn’t want to pursue apartheid, they didn’t want to lynch of to rape. All they wanted was new elections and new elections was why the law was broken. Not to kill Tutsis. Not to prevent blacks from sharing water fountains. Just to vote in free and fair elections.

                Because, I’m sorry, for me, a nonlawyer, it seems to be doublespeak to cry “democracy” in order to defend a parliament opposed by the majority of the people and to, also in the name of “democracy,” oppose an action that is supported by the majority of the people, *whose sole purpose is to bring in free and fair elections.*

                As for the socialists, you wrote:

                “The parliament was democratically elected by the Ukrainian people for a four year in accordance with the constitution. The Socialists as an independent party were elected to it. As an independent party they exercised their independence by going into coalition with Yanukovitch as they were fully entitled to do.”

                I agree with you. Legally they were entitled to do what they did. But here’s the key: “The Socialists as an independent party were elected to it.” Legally, they were indeed independent. But from the perspective of democracy, they were not independent of the people who voted for them. They were voted in based on certain assumptions by the people. The voters assumed that the Socialists were a left-wing, Orange party opposed to the Party of Regions (the Communists, in contrast, were the Party of Regions-allied left-wing party). The Socialists had been aligned with Tymoshenko since 2002, Socialist leader Moroz stood under the Orange flag during the 2004 crisis, alongside Tymoshenko and Yushchenko, and the Socialists were together with the other Orange parties prior to the 2006 elections. The Socialists were about as Orange as Tymoshenko and Yushchenko. Let’s not pretend otherwise.

                From a strictly legal perspective, the Socialists could do what they wanted after they were elected, including totally betray their voters. There was no legal mechanism for recall elections, after all. Legally the people were bound to be ruled by a parliament that directly contradicted their wishes for four years. To you this may be democracy, but logically according to democracy as understood by nonlawyers (reflected in the dictionary definition of that word) democracy is rule by the people, not against the people. Thus when the parliament ceased repesenting the people and began representing only themselves, it ceased being democratic. Perhaps at that point it became an oligarchy. A completely legal one.

                So, Yushchenko broke the law in order to remove the legal oligarchy from power and to hold free and fair elections, in order to restore democracy to Ukraine.

                Is what he did the right thing to do? I don’t think so. Because in 2007 Yushchenko broke the law for the sake of demcoracy, and in 2010 the Party of Regions broke the law for the sake of power opposed to democracy.

                But just because Yushcenko’s action was wrong does not mean his action wasn’t democratic. And just because I state the obvious truth that what he did was democratic does not mean that I defend him, as you have already falsely claimed a number of times.

              • “Also, please no implied comparisons of Yushchenko to fascists, to Rwandan genocidists (!) or Jim Crow (!).”

                Interesting that you seem to go back on your own words….again. First you say that until I retract my statements on your obvious behaviour that it was “good bye and good luck” yet here you quoting me again. By the way, when someone who is versed in law says you are misrepresenting him, it really doesn’t look good on you and telling someone that they are confusing legality with democracy is further confirming that you don’t know the difference between ochlocracy and democracy (and yes I know you quoted wikipedia, but that actually serves to prove my point since I suspect you never encountered the word before I wrote it and had no clue what it meant, otherwise why quote a encyclopedic definition of a word instead of giving the definition in your own words?). In both ochlocracy (or in milder forms of majoritarianism) and democracy the “will of the (majority of the) people” is followed. Only in democracy however is law respected absolutely.

                Case in point; your own words:

                “All the guy did by breaking the law was to let the people vote for a parliament that reflected their wishes, and not have them sit with a parliament that worked against their wishes for four years as mandated by the Constitution. ”

                And here are your own words as applied to another situation with the actors changed:

                “All the [southern State governments] did by breaking the law [/Constitutional amendments and various Civil Rights Acts] was to let the people [have State laws] that reflected their wishes, and not have them sit with [federal laws] that worked against their wishes [] as mandated by the Constitution. ”

                The southern States made themselves to be above federal law in attempts to reflect the wishes of the majority in the South and Yushchenko made himself to be above the law in order to reflect the wishes of the those who voted for his party and its firm allies. What the South did was just as “democratic” as Yushchenko’s actions because they were reflecting the wishes of the majority (who voted in persons who promised to institute Jim Crow laws). Similarly the South had a very manipulated justice system which was just as non-democratic as the current manipulation by Yanukovych.

              • Alexander Mercouris says:

                Dear AP,

                We are going over the same ground so rather than repeat myself I will limit myself as far as I can to answering your questions:

                1. It is possible to have the rule of law without democracy. Some argue that the USSR under Brezhnev was such a case though this is disputed. All agree that Nineteenth Century Britain had the rule of law but was not a democracy.

                2. It is impossible to have democracy without the rule of law. I have pointed out to you that your attempts to separate democracy from law are hopeless. Any definition of democracy that excludes law is wrong.

                4. I think where many of your problems start is that you refuse to recognise that the Socialists were free agents and were fully entitled to do what they did. I also feel that you have a tendency that I remarked on before to attach labels and because you obviously disapprove of what the Socialists did you attach to their actions the label “anti democratic”

                5. The Socialists’s voters elected them to the parliament which was democratically elected by the Ukrainian people for a four year term. Once elected the Socialists as they were entitled to do chose to go into coalition with Yanukovitch. One may condemn this act politically and one is fully entitled to point out that before they were elected the Socialists had given every indication that they would go into coalition with the Orange parties. However because you condemn an act on political grounds that does not entitle you to call it undemocratic. The Socialists always remained ultimately accountable to their voters who would have had a right to pass judgement on what they did at the parliamentary elections that would have happened at the end of parliament’s term. Their action was therefore both legal and accountable so it cannot have been undemocratic.

                5. I have to take issue by the way with your comment that the Socialists going into coalition with the Orange parties was contrary to the will of the Ukrainian people. All we are entitled to say is that the Ukrainian people elected for a four year term a parliament that included the Socialists. It is not for us or for Yushchenko to say what beyond this the will of the Ukrainian people was since neither we nor Yushchenko have the right to speak for the Ukrainian people.

                6. I would remind you that what the Socialists did is fairly commonplace in multi party democratic systems. Most people in Britain expected in 2010 that the Liberal Democrats in the event of an evenly divided government would go into coalition with Labour. They went into coalition with the Conservatives instead. Many people including many people who voted for the Liberal Democrats have condemned what they did but no one has called it undemocratic.

                Dear AP, I have never questioned the sincerity of your beliefs. All I have attempted to do is to draw your attention to the way in which they are wrong. I realised long ago that there was no chance that I would persuade you of this since it is clear to me that you are passionately committed to one side in this matter. This you are of course fully entitled to be and it is commendable in some ways that you are though frankly I do think that Yushchenko has in you in this instance a far better advocate than he deserves. I would however ask you to think carefully in future before bringing the question of democracy into a political argument. I realise that on this occasion you are too committed to back away but I would remind you of my previous comment about the concern I feel at the way in which democracy is misused in the post Soviet space often to justify actions that are its opposite. Needless to say that does not do either the cause of democracy or the political process any good.

                For the rest I want to apologise to the other commentators on this post for what must have seemed at times an obsessive discussion. I would say AP that unless you have some fundamentally new point to make or some entirely new question to ask me you check on my earlier comments for my answers to any questions you may have before expecting from me a reply.

              • Hunter,

                Sorry, my post was directed towards Alexander, not towards you. That was clear when I started my post, “Alexander.” If he chooses to put your ideas in his posts I will address them.

                It’s unfortunate that despite by disengagemrnt you decided to keep up the swiftboating, though. Multiple false accusations, and the gem here, actually comparing Yushchenko’s disbanding of parliament in order to call new free and fair elections, to Southern states’ denials of black rights!

                I only quoted wikipedia about ochlocracy to show that you were seemingly confused about the meaning of the term. An ochlocracy is a democracy. A bad, spoiled form of democracy, but still a democracy. Rule by the people.

                http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ochlocracy

                Ochlocracy (“rule of the general populace”) is democracy (“rule of the people”) spoiled by demagoguery, “tyranny of the majority” and the rule of passion over reason.

                Now what the mob (or, at least, 60% of the population according to opinion polls) wanted in Ukrane was free and fair elections, not racist laws. And this is what Yushchenko gave them, even though doing so was unconstitutional. Free and fair elections. A point worth remembering.

                Anyways, I’d really rather not take this further with someone like you who does not seem to be capable of honesty or civility with those who have an opinion different from your own. I write this with the understanding that you will probably try to provoke another response, which is what trolls do.

              • Alexander,

                Thank you again for the civil discussion. We are obviously far apart on some issues but not others. We seem to agree that what Yushchenko did was illegal, and wrong, though the issue of whether it was democratic divides us. Specifically, whether it should be labeled democratic. I don’t think you doubt that what he did expressed the will of the majority of the people of Ukraine, as confirmed by an opinion poll giving 60% support for disbanding parliament. We seem to differ on the label of that action.

                I wish you would have directly answered the questions I asked, but it is of course your right not to do so.

                I will address your specific points later, when I am less busy.

              • Alexander Mercouris says:

                Dear AP,

                I thought I had answered your questions. Apologies if I was not clear. Let me have one last go:

                1. It is democratic for parties in a democratically elected parliament to form coalitions if this is done in a constitutional way. Individual actions may be criticised on political grounds but that does not make them undemocratic. That applies to what the Socialists did in 2006;

                2. It is undemocratic to dissolve a democratically parliament unconstitutionally. The fact that one of the parties elected to that parliament has gone into an unexpected coalition with another party does not make that unconstitutional act democratic for the reasons I have discussed previously and for the reason I touched on in 1.

                3. No one can say when dissolving unconstitutionally a democratically elected parliament that one is acting in accordance with the will of the people since what is being dissolved is a parliament the people have themselves elected freely and democraticatically in accordance with their constitution and their laws.

                4. It is not democratic to dissolve illegally and unconstitutionally a parliament that has become unpopular. Many parliaments including at the moment the US Congress are unpopular but that is not grounds for illlegally dissolving them. As I have previously said it is possible for something to be both popular and undemocratic and there are many historical examples of this.

                I do insist that the dissolution of the parliament and the subsequent elections are separate events even if the second follows from the first. I do not accept that because the elections were democratic that made the dissolution of the parliament or the attack on the independence of the Constitutional Court democratic.

                There, I am done!

              • Alexander,

                Thank you for clarifying further. We seem to agree on the facts (including constitutionality and legality of the events under discussion, etc.) but differ on the label of some events. You prefer the legalistic definition of democracy/democratic (based on laws) – and in such terms you are probably correct – whereas I use that word in its standard or perhaps colloquial form (defined as power to the people, laws not necessary), in which case I am correct.

                An important point I’ll repeat here is that a vote does not exist in a vacuum. That is, people do vote based on assumptions and expectations. They do not just vote for X, they vote for X specifically because they expect X to do something. If X gets voted in based on the assumption that he will do that thing, and then does the complete opposite (essentially, committing fraud), then X’s presence is clearly not the will of the people. Their vote was basically stolen, even if nothing illegal occurred. In Ukraine’s case, X were of course the Socialists.

                So this was Yushchenko’s dilemna. He was faced with a parliament that (legally) reflected the opposite of what the people wanted, and which (legally) would act against the interests of the people for four years. He chose the interests of the people – I will call it democracy, you may call it something else – above the Law. He returned the power to the people in the form of free and fair elections, and erased the theft fo their vote and their voice using illegal means.

                The issue here, to emphasize, is more than merely popularity of the Socialists. It is more of fraud. The people did not vote for a prty, and then change their mind or started to dislike it, as has happened with respect to the US congress. They voted for a party expecting one thing and then discovering that they were completely tricked and got the oppositie of what they had voted for. They voted for the Socialists because the Socialists were an ORange party whose platform was very much anti-oligarch, and soon after they got into the parliament based on their Orange status and anti-oligarch position, they completely joined the Blue/oligarch coalition. It was fraud.

                An analogy to the US would seem utterly fantastical: the US elects a democratic congress which promises to underdo Republican policies, then soon after the elections the democrats all change their party affiliation to Republican and state they will take orders from Boehner and/or Gingrich. Something completely bizarre in an American context, but reality in the Ukrainian one.

                In terms of dissolution of parliament and subsequent elections – it is not only that the latter follow from the first, but the first was done for the sole purpose of having the latter. The people wanted new elections, and Yushchenko dissolved the unpopular parliament specifically in order to have them and for no other purpose. It was one event.

                Anyways, best wishes. An interesting conversation.

              • A brief addition. Alexander, you mentioned the British Liberal Democrats. I’m not familiar with British politics, but AFAIK the Liberal Democrats did not have an explicitly anti-Conservative platform (also9, I suspect, British society is not as polarized as is Ukrainian society). So their joining the Conservatives is not really that comparable to the Socialists joining the Party of Regions.

              • AP you wrote:

                “Hunter,

                Sorry, my post was directed towards Alexander, not towards you. That was clear when I started my post, “Alexander.” If he chooses to put your ideas in his posts I will address them.”

                Oh please, at no point in Alexander’s post did he explicitly mention Rwanda, but you did. Alexander referred generally to my examples and then talked about Jim Crow. Since you had said good bye and good luck to me, why are you bothering to address issues raised between Alexander and myself? If you can address a section of Alexander’s post that started out as “@Hunter” (note it didn’t say “@AP”) why is that you are now using the defence that your post started out as “Alexander”? Doesn’t that strike you as hypocritical? You are allowed to address a section of the post that was not directed towards you, but others cannot address a post of yours that was not explicitly directed towards them? Or is it that you genuinely believe you are allowed to do some things while others should not?

                “It’s unfortunate that despite by disengagemrnt you decided to keep up the swiftboating, though. Multiple false accusations,”

                You’ve yet to deny my stated observations and just above you seem to have proven at least one of them (hypocrisy).

                “and the gem here, actually comparing Yushchenko’s disbanding of parliament in order to call new free and fair elections, to Southern states’ denials of black rights!”

                I was only using your own words as it applied to another situation. If you don’t like the comparison why make justifications for Yushchenko breaking the law in order to satisfy the will of the majority? In so doing by the way he denied the minority (those who did not vote for the Orange parties) their right to have their own will respected for the life of the parliament. But apparently minority considerations don’t factor into what you consider democracy hence, observing laws (which are one of the ways in which minority rights are expected and if violated can be redressed) is considered separate by you from democracy.

                “I only quoted wikipedia about ochlocracy to show that you were seemingly confused about the meaning of the term. An ochlocracy is a democracy. A bad, spoiled form of democracy, but still a democracy. Rule by the people.”

                Sure you did. So now you are saying that ochlocracy is democracy in the same way that grape juice and wine are the same. So now wine is just grape juice right? Just a bad, spoiled form of grape juice. Since nobody ever uses wine as a synonym for grape juice or vice versa unless they are playing around then you must be playing around with the terms ochlocracy and democracy.

                “Now what the mob (or, at least, 60% of the population according to opinion polls) wanted in Ukrane was free and fair elections, not racist laws. And this is what Yushchenko gave them, even though doing so was unconstitutional. Free and fair elections. A point worth remembering.”

                Nice way to sidestep the uncomfortable comparison I was able to make using your own words to show that in theory nothing was wrong with Jim Crow according to your own logic. You are basically implying that the “mob” wanted the trappings of elections more than it did the rule of law. Hence they wanted ochlocracy.

                “Anyways, I’d really rather not take this further with someone like you who does not seem to be capable of honesty or civility with those who have an opinion different from your own. I write this with the understanding that you will probably try to provoke another response, which is what trolls do.”

                Given that you have apparently demonstrated your own hypocrisy this can’t mean much coming from you. I note that you are still unable to account for how the November 2005 Razmukov Cenrte poll Razumkov Centre poll (reproduced below) fits into your hypothesis even though you seem willing to address other points which I raise. Is it that it is inconvenient and therefore ignored? Or that you didn’t see it?

                Anyway here is the poll and election results four months later:

                Ramzukov Centre poll conducted between November 3-13, 2005:

                PoR – 17.5%
                BYuT – 12.4%
                OU – 13.5%

                Final election result four months later:

                PoR – 32.4%
                BYuT – 22.3%
                OU – 14%

  17. @Alex Mercouris re. “Libyan” thread above.
    Thanks very much for link of your Libyan piece, it is one of the best I have read on Libyan conflict, I wish I had read this earlier. Your piece puts all the main facts together in one place and lays it all out how UN and international legal system was completedly subverted (mostly by 3 main countries: France, Britain, and USA) in their goal of regime change.
    Comments on 2 paragraphs:
    40. The western powers justify this hardline by claiming that they would have been unable to guarantee the safety of Libyan civilians whilst Gaddafi was still in Libya and remained free. Supposedly Libyan civilians would always have been in danger from Gaddafi so long as he was in Libya and remained free. This would apparently have been the case even if a ceasefire was in existence and talks were underway. This argument elevates the supposed threat from Gaddafi to superhuman and even mythic levels. It is a bizarre endorsement of the personality cult he had previously created around himself.
    This is very well said. It is well known that American propaganda likes to pick a “bogeyman do jour” (usually the one targeted for regime change) and demonize him to the point of of superhuman cult. Do Europeans buy this comic-book version of reality? Americans sure do, because, well, they are raised on comic books! It is not enough to be a dictator, you must be a super-evil dictator with super-human powers. (As an exception, though, I have not seen the same kind of personal attacks directed at Assad.) However, I do see them demonizing Putin in this manner, and this is troubling. We have discussed this at length in other posts.
    41. The end of Gaddafi’s regime came at the end of August 2011 when Tripoli was stormed by a rebel Berber force operating from the Nafusa mountains to the west. The French government has openly admitted that it provided arms supplies to these rebels and it has been informally admitted that this force was assembled in Tunisia and was “advised” (or commanded) by western Special Forces. It seems that these Special Forces (mainly British and French) actually took part in the fighting. The attack on Tripoli was apparently planned at NATO headquarters and was given the codename “Operation Mermaid Dawn”.
    Since you wrote that, there has been additional information that the attack on Tripoli was mostly a marine one (which perhaps explains the code name “Mermaid Dawn”?). SAS and American Navy Seal (as well as Qatari Arab) commandos launched amphibious attacks on Tripoli from the Mediterranean Sea. The notion that a handful of Mountain Berbers took Tripoli was a ridiculous propaganda device that was set up in advance. For months Al Jazeera had been trumpetting the notion that the Berbers (Amazigh tribes) were a main force of rebellion against Gaddafy. There were many sweet little propaganda pieces in Al Jazeera showing Berber children learning to write their own alpabet (which they were supposedly forbidden to use under Gaddafy). Well, the Amazigh did in fact have some legitimate beefs against Gaddafy government, and they were the only component of the “rebel” side that I ended up sympathizing with; but guess what? (1) they did NOT take Tripoli, that was done by professional NATO soldiers (and Qataris); and (2) as soon as the new NTC government came into power it immediately excluded the Berbers from representation and made clear that this will be an Arab government. In short, the Amazigh were used for propaganda purposes by the NATO Rebels and then discarded as soon as their services were not required any more!

    • Alexander Mercouris says:

      Dear Yalensis,

      Thank you for these very kind words.

      Thank you also for the up to date information about Operation Mermaid Dawn. As I have said before I have found your posts on the Libyan conflict informative and fascinating. When I read on one of your comments I think on Mark Chapman’s blog that Al Jazeera had faked the fall of Tripoli the day before it happened I admit I was incredulous. I checked your story and you were absolutely right. Some years ago there was a US film called either Wag the Dog or something like it about a US President with declining opinion poll ratings who secures re election by using television to fake a war that never actually happened. It seems that’s where we’ve now got to.

      • Thanks, Alex. Yes, the fake “fall of Tripoli” may have started off as “conspiracy theory”, but is pretty much established fact now. The video analysis does not lie. Aside from RT this fake did not get much coverage in mainstream international media, Deception in war is nothing new (most famous example = Trojan Horse!). In the Tripoli case, what was egregious was not the fact that deception was used, but the fact that the deception was perpetuated by journalists (=Al Jazeera), who filmed the fake “fall of Tripoli” in a sound studio in Doha, Qatar. Nobody expects journalists to be truly impartial, but they do expect them to not fabricate news!

        • Alexander Mercouris says:

          Dear Yalensis,

          You are absolutely right in what you say. When journalists fabricate a story in this way they have ceased to be reporters of news but have become propagandists.

          • This BBC report has been doing the online rounds quite a lot so some people here might have already seen it:
            http://www.ufo-blogger.com/2011/08/libya-war-media-lies-exposed-bbc-shows.html

            There were also reports in October last year that a US commander had spilt the beans about BBC, Agence Presse and CNN journalists on the ground in Libya providing ground co-ordinates of pro-Gaddafi forces to NATO who then relayed the information to the “rebels” but the last couple of times I did Google searches, all these reports had disappeared.

            This was about when The “Ndranguardia newspaper printed an article about some archaeologists “discovering” a lost civilisation in the Libyan Sahara and exchanging ground co-ordinates information with NATO as part of their research. A commenter on the forum following the article made a remark about the archaeologists collaborating with NATO.

            • Hi, Jennifer, thanks for reminding me of the egregious role played by CNN, BBC and Sky News as well in the Libyan conflict. These organizations, like Al Jazeera, cast aside all pretences to be journalists and acted as agents of their nations military intelligence agencies. The Rixos Hotel example shows how some Western “journalists” collaborated with NATO in targeting other (pro-Gaddafy) journalists for assassination.
              Like you, I have been finding recently that some sources I used to see on internet (mostly by pro-Gaddafy or neutral elements) have disappeared. While following Libya war I saved links of articles that interested me, figuring that I could cite them as sources when debating on blogs, but now when I try to return to some of those links I encounter a “page not found” error. I have also encountered some you-tube videos that used to exist but now say something like “Video removed due to copyright infringements at the request of …. [and then list some entertainment organizations].” I don’t want to get too paranoid, but I do get the impression somebody in Orwellian fashion is scouring the internet and cleaning up after the “fog of war”. There is probably more stuff intact in Arabic, but unfortunately I do not read Arabic. I am currently TRYING to learn to read Arabic, but it is slow going. (I am only halfway through the alphabet, have not even STARTED to learn the grammar; fortunately alphabet is fairly logical, not like English alphabet, I will get there eventually, but it is slow going…) BTW, as an Australian, you might be interested: Arabic pronunciation seems similar in many ways to Australian dialect of English, there is the glottal stop (like the way you Australians pronounce a word like “bottle”), and the main consonants (b, t, d, etc.) in Arabic are pronounced more like in English than their Russian counterparts.

              • Hi Yalensis: You could try reading the Press TV reports in English as well as RT Today. Also if you go to Youtube.com and try typing names like Morris Herman and Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya in the search field, you may find several videos on the NATO invasion on Libya there still.

                There were reports of a 1996 prison massacre in Tripoli doing the rounds late last year which The Guardian was beating up a lot but they’ve died down once CNN sent some medical investigators to the scene of the “crime” and discovered the bones found there were animal bones.

                I don’t have much knowledge about the status of Arabic in Australia but most Arabic speakers here speak Lebanese Arabic. I don’t know how representative Lebanese Arabic is of Arabic generally. Probably the next biggest group of Arabic speakers in Australia is the Egyptian group and I do know Egyptian Arabic is very different from most other dialects of Arabic (eg Egyptians say “Gamal” and “gebel” whereas other speakers would say “Jamal” and “jebel”). Most Arab Australians are Muslim but a large minority is Christian (usually Coptic or Maronite).

                Australian English changes all the time as well and seems to be edging closer to British and New Zealand forms of English. It really depends on where you live and work. The glottal stop has become ancient history. People in poorer areas have a broader, flatter accent that sounds “typically” Australian. Also people seem to be swallowing their vowels more (in the manner of New Zealand English which uses the schwa sound more than Australian English does) so a word like “visit” ends up sounding like “vusut”.

  18. One thing we can all comfortably predict for 2012 is that US-financed “independent” non-government organisations and “opposition” groups will be very active during the Russian Presidential elections this coming March and the Western media will be falling over themselves to interview these groups and get their “analyses” of the election outcomes. See this report by F William Engdahl on the Global Research website: http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=28571

  19. So Zhuganov has outed himself as a comprador with his recent announcement that he would release Khodorkovsy, the living saint of Russian dissidents and political prisoners (sarc). I can see that a circus is being prepared for March. The Russian opposition is so desperate for power that they are willing to sell their country down the river.

    • I may be wrong, but wasn’t Khodorkovsky funding the Communists prior to his imprisonment?

      • Moscow Exile says:

        Yes, he was, and most every other party as well. This gives the lie to the Western claim that when he was “earning” his pile before his imprisonment, he was a philanthropic supporter of “freedom and democracy” in Russia: he had the full political spectrum of duma delegates on his payroll.

        Western propagandists also conveniently forget that one of their heroes, Gorbachev, stated in an interview with the London Times that Khodorkovsky evaded taxes to such an extent that he would have been sent down for far longer if he had been a US citizen. They again rather conveniently forget the opinion of former chairman of BP, Lord Browne, concerning Khodorkovsky’s “business” approach, after the the oligarch had boasted to him during a meeting with a view to forging an alliance between BP and Yukos that he had the duma fixed up. As regards this meeting, Browne wrote in his memoirs:

        “Bespectacled, soft-spoken Khodorkovsky could at first glance be mistaken as unassuming. But as the conversation progressed, I felt increasingly nervous. He began to talk about getting people elected to the Duma, about how he could make sure oil companies did not pay much tax, and about how he had many influential people under his control. For me, he seemed too powerful. It is easy to say this with hindsight, but there was something untoward about his approach”.

        See: http://www.aar.ru/es/press/articles/item/121-lord-browne-details-the-difficulties-of-doing-business-in-russia-during-tnk-bp-creation.html

        Browne wrote “untoward”: he should have written “criminal”.

        • BP is one of the big oil companies. They operate partly above the law. Untoward probably means to powerfull/forcefull. If he can do that then why won’t he steal the company from under our feet at a later point in time.

          • Moscow Exile says:

            Untoward does not mean too powerful or too forceful: it means improper or unseemly; it also means unruly, namely not amenable to discipline or control.

            I should think that Browne was perhaps being discreetly polite in writing that he felt that Khodorkovsky’s business approach was untoward; he was also probably acting somewhat prudently in not stating outright that Khodorkovsky was admitting to criminality in his claiming that he could evade taxation by controlling members of the legislature.

            • Khodorkovsky is supposed to have financed local libraries and provided computers to some schools, that sort of thing. I could never find anything more than vague references to his philanthropic activities, but they seemed small and sporadic and purpose-driven considering his enormous wealth. Some (including Navalny) argue that although Khodorkovsky is doubtless guilty of some criminal activities which probably include tax evasion, he has already served his time for those; even less than some serve for murder. But just about everyone who wants to curry favour with the opposition pledges to release him if they are ever in a sufficiently powerful position to do so. Some even argue he should be compensated for his loss of power and prestige, and that they would be glad to see him form a political party.

              I don’t understand how anyone in their right mind would sign up for another round of shock therapy and privatizations. I’ll be surprised if Putin does not sail through by a landslide, because the oppositions’ plans sound like they will serve the interests only of western agencies and some of their protest backers. Doubtless there will be some jiggery-pokery with the exit polls to make it look like the fix is in, but hopefully Russians will remember whose country it is. Russia will never win western approval. Stop trying. Do what’s right for the country.

              • BTW, even Zyuganov recently promised to free Khodorkovsky if elected.

                Reward for his loyalty to the commie mafia? (Komsomol member, then financed KPRF in early 2000’s).

              • I’ve met one of Zhuganov’s close relatives (we have mutual friends in Moscow) and have an interesting impression of that family. They are sincerely devout Orthodox Christians, and also rather materialistic.

                I suspect Zhuganov’s support for Khodorkovsky is basically opportunistic. At the the same time, if it really came down to a realistic potentially dangerous grab for power against the authoriteis I doubt he would have the guts to go for it. He already acquiesced to Yeltsin’s stolen election in 1996.

            • You are using the dictionary definition while i and probably you too think that he was using code for his real thoughts about the man. He was being discreetly polite in using untoward instead of criminal (your words)

    • It is a law of nature: Stalinists ALWAYS enter into rotten popular fronts with the class enemy. Stalinists ALWAYS betray their constituents.
      English proverb: The apple does not fall far from the tree. Grrrrrrr!

      • Alexander Mercouris says:

        Just to say that I agree with all of the points made here about Khodorkovsky.

        As I recently said on Mark Chapman’s blog I recently had a bizarre experience when I watched for the first time the action thriller the Bourne Supremacy. The supervillain in the film is a young, bespectacled Russian oligarch who gains control of the Russian oil industry with help from rogue elements of the CIA and who uses hitmen to bump off his opponents. Not only does he look like Khodorkovsky but his company is callled “Pekos”, which is obviously intended to sound like Yukos. Giuseppe Flavio found that the fact that the supervillain in the Bourne Supremacy is based on Khodorkovsky is widely known and had been mentioned in a Wikipedia entry about the film that Wikipedia has since deleted. The film was released in 2004 so it would have been conceived and made before Khodorkovsky was arrested, transforming him instantly in western eyes from an oligarchic villain into a martyr and saint.

        A few more points:

        1. Zyuganov’s comments are remarkably stupid given that the revelation of the KPRF’s connections to Khodorkovsky caused them severe political damage back in 2004. Khodorkovsky’s doling out of money to all and sundry including to political parties of totally conflicting views should be seen for what it was, which was a massive system of organised bribery intended to buy up the political system.

        2. Khodorkovsky today publicly attacked the European Court of Human Rights alleging that it had been forced to make concessions to Russia. I was wondering how long it would be before that happened.

  20. AK,

    The BBC has done a story on Hungary’s Orban. On the surface it seems almost fairly balanced:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-16549259

    I noticed though that they mention 30,000 protesters in Hungary only once (and Hungary has a population many times smaller than Russia) but you would never have know about the protests otherwise as it was barely reported on the BBC (certainly not as extensively as the protests in Russia).

    Orban does indeed seem to be making a managed democracy. I’m rather surprised that he hadn’t been compared to Putin even once in the article.

  21. “I can’t say I have any clue as to how Syria will turn out. Things seem strange there: Russia and Israel are ostensibly unlikely, but actually logical, allies of Assad, while the US, France, the UK, and the Gulf monarchies are trying their best to topple him. These wars are waged in the shadows.”

    And things have gotten even stranger:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-16561493

    Qatar’s Sheikh has now said that Arab nations should send troops to Syria to stop the killing….

    Not sure if this would even make its way to the UN Security Council as the only Arab representative there is Morocco. Not sure if Morocco would end up sponsoring a resolution. It may not even gain traction in the Arab League given what happened in Libya……but then Qatar’s Sheikh didn’t say that Arab League troops should intervene, just troops from Arab nations (unless BBC mistranslated or misquoted him).

  22. Guennadi Timtchenko says:

    Thanks for that – Communist leader pledges to free Khodorkovsky if elected president –

    “the party of crooks and thieves”

    In a Mafia state run by KGB , Zyuganov know he have to work with uncorrupted businessman to win the election . The Putin -mafia control the media and the economic resources in Russia , but the people can not be manipulated in the future .

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/wikileaks/8175406/WikiLeaks-Putins-secret-billions.html

    • Putin’s “secret billions” is bullshit Western propaganda and character assassination. They (NATO countries) made same false claims against Muammar Gaddafy before physically assassinating him.
      Putin’s 3-point plan which he intends to implement if re-elected to Kremlin:

      Во-первых, объявление войны офшорам.
      Во-вторых, начало разбирательства по поводу дочерних компаний, облепивших, по плану Чубайса, российскую энергетику. Отправив «смотрящего по России» от Бильдербергского клуба в почетную ссылку, Путин замахнулся теперь на его детище: преступный плод приватизации РАО ЕЭС. Политическое значение этого факта невозможно переоценить: прецедент с большим, судьбоносным будущим.
      В-третьих, назначение Рогозина на ВПК. А по сути дела, назначение ВПК, как в старые добрые времена, локомотивом развития индустриальной и постиндустриальной России. Как это во всех нормальных странах исстари ведется.


      First, declaration of war against off-shores.
      Second, straightening out the “daughter companies” (Russian energy companies) system established by Chubais. Get rid of “Bilderberg Club” overseer. Putin has set his sights on the criminal fruit of the EES (Single Energy Company) privatization…
      Thirdly, appointment of Rogozin…

      Even if Putin were the most corrupt guy in the world (which he is not), his plan, if implemented, would go a long way to ending some of the most egregious oligarchic corruption and would be vastly popular among majority of Russian citizens.
      Hence, those oligarchic has-beens and financial interests who would be most harmed by Putin’s plan are responding with frenzied propaganda campaign accusing Putin of corruption. Their shills mindlessly repeating the “crooks and thieves” slogan does not make it true. If you want to get a good look at REAL crooks and thieves, then just glance at the podium of Orangeoid Opposition demonstrations!
      Reference:
      http://www.sevastianov.ru/novosti/revolyutsiya-sislibov-versus-natsionaljnaya-revolyutsiya.html

      • Goebbels would be proud. Keep on repeating the mantra that Putin is corrupt and he becomes corrupt in the minds of the lemmings. This is just like the drivel about “Putin’s palace”, which is a refurbished government run former palace that is accessible to anyone (i.e. not belonging to Putin). If these jokers had any shred of dirt on Putin they would be screeching about it day and day out. So far they have not identified where Putin’s alleged billions are and where he got them.

        But actually I would not mind if Putin got rewarded with billions. He deserves it for saving Russia from oblivion that was engineered under Yeltsin. Berezovsky made his billions by outright theft, yet he is living safe and sound in London without the bloody western media on his a**. The gas princess Timoshenko made her billions stealing Russian gas in the 90s, but at least she was put behind bars. Khodorkovsky looted billions too and is doing time, but is treated by the western media as some political prisoner (I did not realize that oligarch thievery was democracy.) Putin’s accusers, as you point out, are hypocrites and liars. They ignore the definition of corruption. Undoing the gangster paradise that was Russia under Yeltsin is the opposite of corruption.

      • “Even if Putin were the most corrupt guy in the world (which he is not), his plan, if implemented, would go a long way to ending some of the most egregious oligarchic corruption..”

        Yalensis, might this be one of the reasons why we are seeing an increased focus on attempts to de-legitimize and weaken Putin? After all if the Western MSM treats oligarchs like saints, it only follows that any plan which would disturb the oligarchs’ status quo in favour of rooting out their corrupt practices would incite a backlash from the oligarchs. Given that the oligarchs seem to have a lot of influence in the media then some parts of the media closest to the oligarchs would probably be encouraged to take the lead in “bad writing” (as opposed to “bad mouthing”) Putin and then of course the rest of the western MSM just follows along in their wake and perhaps tries to compete with them in writing articles denigrating Putin with little to no substantive evidence.

  23. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you American presidential candidate Ron Paul: Wrong about a lot of things, but right about Libya:

  24. I see a new article on Putin featured on the popular http://www.aldaily.com/ :
    “Putin and the Uses of History”
    by Fiona Hill, Clifford G. Gaddy
    http://nationalinterest.org/article/putin-the-uses-history-6276?page=show

  25. Based on the results of the South Carolina Republican Primary election last night, I would like to officially retract my prediction that Mitt Romney will the next Prez of USA. When I made this prediction, Romney seemed like a shoe-in for Republican nomination, just based on the simple fact that there was nobody else; and from there it seemed like he would probably beat Obama, based on the poor U.S. economy and Obama’s record of incompetence. However, what I did not take into account, and could not have known, is there there is some kind of problem with Romney’s taxes. He has refused to release his tax returns, and this badly hurt him with the primary voters, thus giving the victory to Gingrich.
    You have to wonder about a guy who has planned for the last 10 years to run for President, but did not take into account that he needed to have clean tax returns in order to qualify.
    Speculations include the following: (1) Mitt never paid any taxes over the past few years, or (2) He paid some taxes, but not enough, or (3) Voters would be turned off to discover that Mitt pays 10% of all his earnings to Mormon Church, or, more sinisterly, and my personal favorite (4) Mormon church establishment will discover that Mitt has been skeeving THEM as well as U.S. treasury! That could be a terrible catastrophe for Romney, because he would have to either pay up or risk ex-communication.

    • Alexander Mercouris says:

      Dear Yalensis,

      This truly is turning into a dismal election.

      Obama has disappointed and disillusioned his supporters and is obviously vulnerable. A strong Republican candidate should be in a good position to finish him off. Yet the Republican party it seems cannot find anybody it can enthusiastically unite behind.

      I still think Romney is the most likely contender to emerge as the Republican candidate. He is certain to win the primary in Massachusetts were he was governor and I suspect that this will give him the momentum he needs. South Carolina is one of the most conservative states and not very typical. Having said this there is no enthusiasm for him. How can there be given that he is a multi millionaire financier who made his money in the same financial services sector that is widely blamed for the current crisis (not to mention also the way he avoids paying tax)?

      I think in a straight contest Romney could beat Obama but this is not an election I can easily predict because the Republican field is so weak. I suspect a lot will depend on how the economy turns out between now and the election.

      One prediction I do make is that if the eventual Republican candidate is Romney he will choose a very right wing running mate (Rick Santorum?).

    • I think that some people forget that culture, history and nationalism are more important factors in terms of voter choice, than economics or party/class ideology and identification. This is why the workers of the world, rather than uniting in 1914, slaughtered each other.

      The US South is its own particular culture, much more different from the US North than the North is different from Canada. Gingrich crafted a campaign that appealed to southern US nationalism. As brillliantly described by Anatol Lieven in his book about US nationalism, much of the US South was settled by protestant peasants, Scotch-Irish followers of Oliver Cromwell. They hated the British monarchy (beheading the king), aristocracy and elites in general, who were seen as decadent and exploitative. This hatred, on American soil, became a hatred for the coastal cosmpolitan elite and the wealthy. The Scotch-Irish also had a proud tradition of fighting enemies, be they Irish Catholics (originally), Indians in the New World, Germans, Commies, or Muslims in order to carve out and preserve or safeguard their homeland.

      Just as they have preserved some old Scottish folk songs that have disappeared in Scotland itself, Lieven notes that they have also preserved a pre-Enlightened 17th century worldview with respect to religion, war, etc.

      Gingrich crafted his SC campaign to appeal to these people’s anti-elitist nationalist sentiments. Using democratic language about evil corporations was completely logical when it was used by Gingrich as a weapon against the evil exploitative elite Romney, portrayed as a rapacious Yankee northeasterner invading Southern factories and shutting them down. His flipflops on abortion, an affront to simple peasant Protestant morality. Gingrich’s coded racism (Obama the food stamp president) and the supportof Tea Party people fearful of Obama the closet Muslim appealed to their traditional xenophobia.

      This approach won’t work outside the South. Florida’s Republicans are mostly either Cuban (who apparently support Romney) and many retirees from pro-Romney Michigan or the Northeast. Romney should double Gingrich’s delegates in that state alone. His Mormon faith will help him win the mouintain West and California, and he’ll take the Northeast. IMO Romney will be the nominee without winning any of the southern states.

      I’m not sure about the general election. If the economy improves, Obama will probably win. If not – the southerners will still take Romney over Barak Hussein Obama. Romney will put the Northeast and Michigan in play…so he’ll have a good chance of winning. Picking a popular northern Repubican such as Christie as running-mate might help him. This tax thing probably came up early enough that he will have a chance to diffuse it by the time of the general election.

  26. Croatia is about to join the EU is this a bad move for the country?

    • I was surprised at hearing the evening news on SBS TV that Croatia has indeed voted to join the EU in 2013. Results were that two-thirds voted for membership and one-third voted against in the referendum but the voter turnout was low.

      There were protests on the day before the referendum took place (22 January 2012) and a poll done very recently showed that 40% of Croatians weren’t in favour of joining the EU. That’s quite a big minority.

      Nearly all political parties if not all of them were in favour of joining the EU which might suggest that they don’t see any other alternative to joining which won’t involve being pressured by Germany to yield their resources to German companies or buy German arms. And bear in mind also that Germany was the first country to recognise Croatia as an independent state when it broke away from Yugoslavia back in 1991.

      Horvat, are you Croatian and if so, are you able to find out if Croatia has demanded an opt-out option regarding the adoption of the euro? My understanding is that when Croatia becomes a full member on 1 July 2013, it doesn’t have to accept the euro then but the country should demand the option not to join the eurozone as Denmark and the UK have.

      I personally don’t think that joining the EU is a good move for Croatia as the country is in bad economic condition and has been receiving about 150 million euros in assistance every year since 2007. Corruption is bad with former Prime Minister Ivo Sanader charged with two counts of corruption,. His trial was supposed to have started last November after a rescheduling because of “health issues”. Some things never change! Croatians see what’s been happening in Hungary (that country may default on its debts) and in Romania (under pressure from the EU to cut back on the already meagre social services the country offers, plus women and girls are trafficked as prostitutes to EU countries) and are afraid they’ll go down a similar path.

  27. Alexander Mercouris says:

    Here is a link to a very interesting article in the Independent that says that secret discussions are underway between the leading oil producers including the Gulf States, the BRICS countries (lead here by China) and ominously Japan and Brazil to replace the dollar by a basket of currencies in the international oil trade. This basket will include both the renminbi and the rouble. Apparently the long term objective is to conduct the oil trade in an entirely new currency.

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/the-demise-of-the-dollar-1798175.html

    If this is true (and the article seems very well informed) and if it does indeed happen then the dollar’s days as the world’s reserve currency are well and truly numbered with all the colossal geopolitical and economic implications that go with that.