This was the big day, the day Ukrainians chose a new President.
As is now public, our collective observations showed an election that indeed reflects the will of the people, and, based on over 90% of the votes counted, Viktor Yanukovich appears to have won, but by a slim margin of only about 2%.
It took me a while to get this written, as I didn’t get to bed until 6am the morning after. As it would happen, one of the few disruptions in the whole country happened at the election commission centre that we were observing in Odesa, and we did not leave the station until after 3:30 am.
In the end, even the process disruptions in our section, although they kept everyone up and tabulating until well into the next day, did not affect our conclusion: we had witnessed an election that conformed to very high standards. Indeed, one of the striking things about election night was just how committed everyone was to the process. With huge lineups in our particular centre, crowded rooms and stairwells, no sign of progress until almost 3 am (which for many came at the end of a day that had started at 7 am the prior morning), and, not surprisingly, no shortage of frayed tempers, it would have been easy for quite a few to give up and go home. But no, everyone who needed to stay, stayed until the end, to be sure that all of the votes and tallies were handed in.
This commitment to the rules, the transparency, the democratic process, which commitment was witnessed in polling stations all across the country, was both striking and encouraging. There is an unquestionable enthusiasm for the democratic process here in Ukraine, and for the factors critical to its success: a free and open media and the personal freedom to engage in open and vigorous debate.
This election was a positive legacy of the Orange Revolution of 2004, which discarded a flawed election and forced a second one that, ultimately, democratically, reflected the will of the Ukranianian people.
The conduct of this election shows that Ukranians have embraced democracy, and I was proud to have participated even in a small way.