One of last year’s elections featured a poisoned candidate, rumors about his sexual exploits and massive voter fraud.
And, for once, it didn’t take place in the United States.
On Jan. 24, after months of citizen rebellion and international attention, Viktor Yushchenko was sworn in as Ukraine’s third president. Yushchenko’s opponent, Ukraine’s former prime minister, Viktor Yanukovych, was defeated by the public because of his administration’s alleged ties to the former Soviet Union. People around the world, including MSU students and East Lansing residents, are considering this election as a major victory for freedom.
“People in the U.S. are really happy and really hopeful for the future of Ukraine,” MSU graduate Pete Maziak said. Maziak and other members of the Ukrainian Club of MSU were satisfied with Yanukovych’s defeat on Jan. 10th.
[ukr] “[Yanukovych] was going to tie Ukraine back to Russia,” said Andrew Bluj, another member of the Uki Club. “He would eventually turn Ukraine back to a communist nation.” Although Ukraine has been an independent nation since 1991, some Ukrainian citizens have felt that the country has maintained too many close ties to Russia.
The entire election fiasco began with the first election on Oct. 31, 2004, when neither Yanukovych nor Yushchenko could generate the 50 percent voter margin needed for a victory. A run-off election was held later on Nov. 21 between the two candidates. Although Yanukovych was declared the winner, some voters reported difficulties in areas where Yushchenko was expected to win. It was later discovered that in places where Yanukovych was strong, there were voter turnouts of over 100 percent, which indicated massive voter fraud. In one particular area, there was a voter turnout reported of 127 percent.
Yushchenko supporters, under the name of the “Orange Revolution,” took to the streets, blocking entrances to the Ukrainian capitol. The protests and the voter fraud allegations caused the Ukrainian Supreme Court to declare the November election results to be void, and a new election was held on Dec. 26th. Yushchenko was declared the winner of that election by a margin of 8 percent.
But between the November and December elections, Yushchenko revealed that he had been poisoned with a deadly chemical called dioxin. He accused the Security Service of Ukraine of poisoning his soup at a dinner on Sept. 5. Yushchenko suffered from a rash of chemical acne, which permanently disfigured his face. He reported his illness soon after the dinner, but the opposition government called it the flu, and at one point, insinuated that the candidate had a severe case of herpes.
[poison] “I’m not surprised that it happened,” said human biology junior Adrian Pichurko. “It was the same way the USSR was run. It’s pretty predictable.”
Yanukovych conceded the election on Dec. 31 after a failed court appeal. Leaders from around the world, including President Bush, have confirmed their support for the new Ukrainian government. Yushchenko has said that he plans on forming closer ties with the United States, as well as keeping ties with Russia. But advertising senior Nina Prybula doubts Yushchenko’s willingness to cooperate with Russia.
“If he said he was going to cut ties, there would be a civil war,” said Prybula.
What lies ahead for Ukraine is unclear. There will need to be reconstruction on both a political and social level. But advocates for a democratic planet are extremely hopeful.

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