Day 2 of Martha on a Mission---the continuing story of my participation in the OSCE Election Observation Mission for the Ukraine presidential election. For some brief history about the Orange Revolution see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orange_Revolution
In two days, February 7, Ukraine will elect a new president. The two candidates in the run-off election are Yulia Tymoshenko and Viktor Yanukovych.
The irony is that Viktor Yanukovych was the one who "won" in 2004, only to have the results deemed fraudulent, whereupon Viktor Yushchenko was ultimately elected as President. All because of the Orange Revolution.
Two weeks ago in the first round of the elections, Yushchenko came far behind, with barely 4% of the vote. Yulia Tymoshenko, who came second in the first round of balloting and is in the run-off, was the other key player in the 2004 Orange Revolution. She is the current Prime Minister.
The Members of our Canadian Parliament here as part of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly are me, Monique Guay (Bloc); David Christopherson (NPD); Peter Goldring (Con), and the head of our mission is Senator Consiglio di Nino. Today we went to the Canadian Ambassador's residence for lunch (Daniel Caron http://www.canadainternational.gc.ca/ukraine/offices-bureaux/ambassador_msg_ambassadeur.aspx?lang=eng). We enjoyed a very interesting discussion with various Canadians who make their home here in Ukraine, and who have some interesting perspectives about the current election and its process. (There are more than 1,200,000 Canadians of Ukrainian descent in Canada.)
Tonight the two candidates had massive demonstrations, big stages and light shows included. They faced each other, at opposite ends of a long, wide boulevard--competing for attention and ear drums. Although people are worried that the promise of the Orange Revolution has dissipated, tonight's demonstrations were a significant example of a people embracing the idea of democracy. It wasn't that long ago that the idea of two major opposing candidates holding massive rallies at either end of a stretch of Volodymyrska St. was unheard of.
We are witnessing a country full of people now understanding, and wanting--indeed, palpably feeling, the promise of democracy. Even if it is not perfect (we will see what happens with our observations of Election Day, and we still have issues with regard to campaign financing and the control of the media---more on that later), it is a major move forward for a place which, although the people have been here for a very long time, is a very young country politically--with a very challenging history.
It is extraordinary being able to be here to witness history being made.
It is now after 2:00 am here, and I have an early departure in the morning for Odessa. More to come tomorrow.