Is Ukraine more of a democracy than Russia?

MOSCOW. (Yevgeny Kozhokin for RIA Novosti) - Contrary to expectations, the political landscape of post-election Ukraine is not likely to be any smoother.

As soon as the votes are counted, Ukraine will have a hard time forming a government. The ruling coalition will not take shape quickly despite the Orange majority's efforts to unite and put a good face on things.

Given the state of personal relations between Viktor Yushchenko and Yulia Tymoshenko, and her excessive demands, any alliance they manage to form is bound to be fragile and short-lived and, most probably, will not make Ukraine any more tranquil.

At the same time, there is a good chance that the Orange leaders will fail to strike a deal and that a future government will represent the same powerful economic and political forces as the former coalition did before the Rada's dissolution. Apart from the Party of Regions, the future coalition could include the Communists and the Socialists if they manage to overcome the 3% threshold.

But these two scenarios are not exhaustive. Coalitions may take many and varied forms, even ones incredible to the mind of any sensible analyst. In Kiev non-stop talks are going on between all parties. Allegiances and enmities change in the blink of an eye. The real bone of contention is access to the resources of that rich country. Despite traumatic political upheavals, Ukraine has been doing rather well economically.

The unprecedented success of Yulia Tymoshenko's bloc at the recent elections deserves special mention. It came as a surprise to many people although it has a logical explanation. The bloc fought a vigorous campaign, with Tymoshenko playing the first fiddle. She viewed these elections as the last and decisive battle. In a way, her bloc had the advantage of not being responsible for Ukraine's current problems. Not being associated with either the president or the government, Tymoshenko could lash out with equal ferocity both at Yushchenko and his supporters and Prime Minister Yanukovych's Party of Regions. It was an effective strategy; her energy helped her attract even hitherto alien voters to her banner, and won over some of Yanukovich's fans.

Regrettably, the Party of Regions failed to carry out some of the promises it made during the previous election, such as to upgrade the status of the Russian language and to hold a referendum on Ukraine's entry to NATO. The leaders of the party and the government often applied double standards to key issues, losing the support of their voters as a result. For part of Ukrainian society, Tymoshenko has appeared to be more outspoken and appealing for that reason.

The results of the current elections are bound to affect Russian-Ukrainian relations. If Our Ukraine-People's Self-Defense and Tymoshenko's bloc form an Orange coalition, it will be more difficult for Russia to conduct dialogue and have normal cooperation with Ukraine than it was when it was under the Party of Regions and their allies.

It is too risky to make any forecasts before the final results are announced, but whatever happens Russia should develop bilateral relations with Ukraine, or at least maintain the status quo. Being Ukraine's next-door neighbor, we are linked by tremendous economic interests. Nonetheless, we may have to face many complicated problems.

On the one hand, we cannot be indifferent to what is taking place in Ukraine, on the other we should not interfere in its internal affairs. To maintain a proper balance, we should try to preserve good neighborly relations and partnership with Ukraine, and keep it away from NATO. Ukraine's entry into this alliance would have grievous consequences for our two nations.

The parliamentary race in Ukraine is over. Could our own political elite derive any lessons from it on the eve of the approaching elections to the State Duma? The situation in Russia is very different in many respects - the political system, functioning of parties and conduct of voters. In this sense, it is hard to draw any parallels with the Ukrainian campaign.

Yet, strange though it may seem, the Ukrainian Orange forces are similar to the most radical Russian parties in their approach to political problems. Though our respective political systems differ greatly, the basic political cultures of our two countries are pretty much the same. It makes no sense to try and determine which one of us is closer to the democratic ideal, because both still have to go a long way to reach it.

Yevgeny Kozhokin is the director of the Russian Institute of Strategic Studies and a member of the RIA Novosti Expert Council.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.

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