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RFE/RL: Colored Revolutions: High Hopes And Broken Promises

posted by FerrasB on November, 2007 as FREEDOM & FEAR

From: MSN NicknameEagle_wng  (Original Message)    Sent: 11/22/2007 8:46 PM
Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Colored Revolutions: High Hopes And Broken Promises

By Salome Asatiani

Georgia/Ukraine – Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili and Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko in Tbilisi, 23Nov2006
Mikheil Saakahsvili (left) and Viktor Yushchenko -- whose revolution did better?
November 21, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- The Rose and Orange revolutions ushered in a wave of optimism that similar "colored revolutions" would soon spread Western-style democracy throughout the Soviet Union.

But as anniversaries of the events in Georgia and Ukraine approach, high hopes and great expectations have been replaced with apprehension.

Georgia became a regional trendsetter in November 2003, when the popular resistance that followed rigged parliamentary elections transformed into the Rose Revolution that spelled the downfall of the ruling regime.

The movement promised a break with past practices of corruption and kleptocracy, to be replaced with democratic governance and improved social conditions. And the charismatic face of the opposition, Mikheil Saakashvili, led the charge.

"We need new blood to come into politics in Georgia to replace the scumbags and corrupt deputies, ministers, and members of various parties who don't care about the people," the soon-to-be president said.

The revolution reached its peak with the opposition's seizure of the parliament building, and on November 23, 2003, President Eduard Shevardnadze resigned, prompting a massive celebration in Tbilisi.

One year later, it was Ukraine's turn, and once again flawed elections served as the stimulus.

Tens of thousands of Orange-clad Viktor Yushchenko supporters took to the streets on November 22, 2004, when it became apparent that presidential elections held the day before had been skewed in favor of the "blue" camp's candidate, Viktor Yanukovych.

As a result of the outcry, a new vote was ordered for late December, and Yushchenko emerged as the winner.

Yushchenko touted the Orange victory as the "people's choice," and promised to lead Ukraine in a new and democratic direction.

"The falsification by the Central Election Commission only postponed the time of recognition of the real choice of the people," he said during his January 23 inauguration ceremony. "This choice was proclaimed today in parliament and I took an oath on the Bible."

With their revolutions, two countries that shared a similar Soviet past and proximity to Russia appeared to start a new chapter. Saakashvili and Yushchenko vowed to spur development and democratization of their respective countries, and promoted integration with trans-Atlantic structures.

The two leaders enjoyed enthusiastic moral support from the United States, which touted the developments in Georgia and Ukraine as the advancement of democracy.

In early 2005, Saakashvili and Yushchenko were even nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by influential U.S. Senators John McCain and Hilary Clinton. "In leading freedom movements in their respective countries," the senators' letter to the Nobel Institute read, the two presidents "have won popular support for the universal values of democracy, individual liberty, and civil rights."

Saakashvili and Yushchenko established a strong personal bond as well, the beginnings of which could be seen during the Georgian president's address to the Ukrainian people on November 23, 2004, during the peak of the Orange Revolution. "Dear Ukrainians, dear brothers and sisters," Saakashvili said in Ukrainian. "I speak to you on this holy St. George's Day. I wish you success, peace and calm, justice and victory."

'Who Has Done Better?'

But today, most analysts agree that Georgia and Ukraine have taken quite different postrevolutionary paths.

While Ukraine is widely seen as having more success in establishing democratic procedures of governance, Georgia is considered to be better off in terms of carrying out structural and economic reforms. The citizens of both countries, meanwhile, are waiting for promises of prosperity to come true.

"Who has done better, who has done worse? The Ukrainian achievements never looked as good as Georgian ones, but I wonder if the Ukrainian achievements are actually rather more sustainable," says Nicholas Redman, an Eastern Europe analyst with the Economist Intelligence Unit.

Meanwhile, both countries have experienced political crises at home.

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