Hi, Martha here.
I have just arrived in Kiev, Ukraine.
A 2 hr bus ride from Ottawa to Montreal; a 2.5 hr layover at the Montreal airport; a 6.5 hr flight from Montreal to Amsterdam; a 2.5 hour layover at the Amsterdam airport; a 2.5 hr flight from Amsterdam to Kiev. 16 hours..... phew. But it's great to be back.
This the first of my "Martha on a Mission" series for the next week. The "Mission" is the OSCE/ODIHR Election Observation Mission, for the Ukrainian Presidential Election February 7.
I was here just 2 weeks ago, on the same mission, for the preliminary round of the elections, but no one reached a majority, so we have a run-off between the two top-placers from the preliminary round, Viktor Yanukovych and Yulia Tymoshenko. (I will write more about the part these two played in the 2004 Orange Revolution, the fascinating developments here that reflect 'transitional democracy'; comparisons to what we in Canada have; and, of course, the not-at-all-small irony that one of the reasons I am able to be here to help ensure that democracy is functioning in Ukraine is that my own Prime Minister shut the doors on our own......)
The OSCE is the Organization for Security and Co-0peration in Europe, and ODIHR is the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights. I am here as part of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, through the auspices of the Canadian Parliament's "Canada-Europe Parliamentary Group". I was thrilled to have been chosen as one of the 4 Canadian MPs to come---and because of the election run-off, the same four of us are back: Monique Guay from the Bloc; Dave Christopherson from the NDP, and Peter Goldring from the Conservatives, and our group is headed by Senator Consiglio di Nino. (And yes, outside of Question Period, it IS possible for MPs from different parties to get along--indeed, we enjoy each other's company. And after all, we're here for a common purpose.) There are many other Canadians here assisting with the election observation mission, through several groups---Gerard Kennedy is here this time through one of them as well.
I am just getting ready to go out to find some borscht and a beer with a few colleagues---the Martha on a Mission series will continue....