It’s a sweet irony that declared winner of Ukraine’s presidential election, the billionaire "chocolate tycoon" Petro Poroshenko, proclaimed that his electoral victory "showed that people have chosen the path of European Union integration.” Meanwhile, this week the people across the EU were voting in record numbers against the project of closer European centralization under Brussels. If Poroshenko is correct about Ukraine, which is doubtful, then the people of Ukraine are swimming against the popular tide in the EU where there is mounting disaffection with what is seen as overbearing governance by unelected bureaucrats in Brussels…
What we have in both cases actually is a popular rejection of oligarchy, whether of the Ukrainian or EU variety.
The outright electoral victories in Britain and France of the UK Independence Party and the Front National were just two of the stunning gains this week by radical right-wing political parties right across the 28-nation bloc. Similar parties polled strongly in Denmark, Austria, Holland, Sweden, Belgium, Finland and Hungary. All of these parties are marked by policies that are anti-immigration and nationalistic. Some, such as France’s FN, led by Marine Le Pen, and Hungary’s Jobbik or Holland’s Freedom Party are accused of being racist and anti-Semitic.
But one view that unites the various right-wing parties is their contempt for closer integration of the EU under Brussels’ dictate, vowing to take their respective countries out of the union.
So, confectionary tycoon Poroshenko’s apparent jubilation with EU integration seems as misplaced as a toffee sweet poked into a matted rug, given the widespread euro-skeptic climate out there.
In addition, and much more seriously, are the extreme conditions of violence prevailing in large parts of Ukraine. The country is in a morass of incipient civil war, where a Western-backed coup in Kiev is waging a reign of terror on the mainly Russian-speaking eastern and southern regions.
Just as Poroshenko was being declared the presidential winner with 55 per cent of the vote in an election where large sections of the population did not even cast their ballots, the Kiev regime was launching another lethal military assault in Donetz. Some 20 people have been killed in recent days in the eastern regions, many of the victims unarmed civilians shot down by Kiev’s national guard, backed up by neo-Nazi paramilitaries and reportedly American mercenaries.
Overall voter turnout across Ukraine was said to be as low as 45 per cent this week, with parts of Lugansk and Donetz seeing voting rates of only 10 per cent. While political commentators talk about heavy rain being a factor in voter apathy in the EU, in Ukraine the problem deterring citizens was a precipitous reign of terror.
Poroshenko says he wants the so-called "anti-terror operations" to continue in the east and south, where populations have declared political autonomy from the oligarch-friendly, neo-Nazi junta in Kiev. Indeed, Poroshenko has said somewhat enigmatically that the he wants to make the military onslaught "more efficient". What does that mean? The increased integration of Right Sector death squads with the American CIA and other covert NATO forces?
In such a climate of lawlessness and murderous state violence under the auspices of a regime that seized power illegally in Kiev against an elected government in February, it seems ludicrous to talk about the conduct of a "presidential election.” And when the declared winner is now vowing to have a democratic mandate to step up repression against civilians, the issue then becomes appalling.
Ironically, the Ukraine and the EU share certain features that Poroshenko does not intend in his presumption of closer integration. The low turnouts in both jurisdictions of 45-43 per cent indicate that the majority of the populations do not support the various political authorities. Even in western and central Ukraine where the Kiev regime claims to have large support, most of the voters stayed away.
While Poroshenko officially won 55 per cent of the ballot that figure represents only half of a national minority. The other pro-Kiev candidates showed even more lackluster performances, with Yulia Tymoshenko, Oleg Lyashko and Dimitry Yarosh receiving less than 12 per cent of the national minority voting. Yarosh, the Right Sector commander instrumental in the coup only collected one per cent of the total minority vote. Yet these politicians claim to have a mandate to launch military strikes on dissenting civilians.
Convicted embezzler Tymoshenko, also known as the "gas princess" owing to her past corruption over energy deals, made the delusional comment after the poll: "I want to congratulate the whole of Ukraine since despite external aggression, despite the Kremlin's intent to disrupt this election we had an honest and democratic election in Ukraine." Despite no evidence of Russian interference in Ukraine and repeated denials of such from Moscow, there are reams of video evidence showing pro-Kiev Kiev military forces terrorizing civilians. Is Tymoshenko now saying that the Kremlin somehow tricked the majority of the electorate across the whole of Ukraine from not stepping out to vote, even in supposedly pro-Kiev western Ukraine?
A more plausible assessment is that the majority of citizens view the Ukrainian candidates as not having any legitimacy or democratic credentials. A majority of voter abstentions can be viewed as a massive rejection of the politicians on offer because these politicians have nothing to offer in terms of vision or policies.
The backdrop to the dramatic rise of the nationalistic, anti-EU parties in the European elections this week is consistent with the same voter apathy, disillusionment and ultimately withholding of democratic mandate in the Ukraine.
The victory of Britain’s UK Independence Party and France’s Front National is not necessarily a correlation of the growing popularity of racist, proto-fascist politics among Europe’s people. It is surely noteworthy that both parties topped the polls ahead of established parties. In Britain, it was the first time in over 100 years that neither the Conservative nor Labour Party won first place.
In France, the incumbent governing (so-called) Socialist Party of President Francois Hollande slumped into third place with only 14 per cent of the vote, against Le Pen’s FN gaining 26 per cent. The drubbing for Hollande party follows the electoral meltdown in French municipal elections earlier this year. His Prime Minister Manuel Valls described this week’s collapse as "a political earthquake".
Nigel Farage, the UKIP leader, whose party won first place with 27 per cent of the British vote, doubling its tally of MEPs from the last election in 2009, said: "The penny's really dropped that as members of this union we cannot run our own country and, crucially, we cannot control our own borders."
Britain’s voter turnout was even lower than the EU average of 43 per cent – standing at an abysmal low of 33 per cent. As in the rest of Europe, the evident apathy reflects that the majority are discontent and disillusioned with the established and even the newcomer radical right, rather than endorsing the latter parties as a genuine alternative. The partial rise of the rightwing parties is more a popular revolt against the increasing oligarchic nature of the European Union and its regimen of economic austerity. Across the EU, a record 26 million people are unemployed and 13 million of those in work are struggling below the poverty line, according to the European Trade Union Institute.
In that way, the people of Ukraine and the EU do share a dubious level of integration – one of widespread disgust with oligarchic figures such as European bankers, their political servants and industrial kleptocrats, such as Poroshenko and Tymoshenko.
Reprinted with permission from the Strategic Culture Foundation.