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Expert Commentary

Expert Commentary

Robert Legvold (courtesy photo)

TWO GOOD THINGS ABOUT THE ELECTIONS: ROBERT LEGVOLD is the Marshall D. Shulman professor of political science at New York's Columbia University. In an interview with RFE/RL correspondent Daisy Sindelar ahead of Ukraine's parliamentary vote on March 26, Legvold discusses what effect the ballot may have on the country's working relations with Russia and the United States. (To read the complete interview, click here.)

RFE/RL: After the events of the Orange Revolution, many people may find the idea of a Yushchenko-Yanukovych partnership bizarre, if not disappointing. Is there a bright side to these elections?

Legvold: For all of the uncertainties -- and uncertainties are going to continue, even when we know what the election results are -- I think there are two very good things. One that's clearly so -- these will be the cleanest, the fairest, the most modern kind of elections that meet a democratic standard that we've seen in any post-Soviet state since the collapse of the Soviet Union, with the exception of the Baltic states. And that is not to be minimized, and I think it is a product of November-December 2004.

RFE/RL: And the other good thing?

Legvold: The other thing is that rather than the outside powers -- Russia, the United States, and Europe -- having developed strong agendas that are competitive, and that lead them then to directly involve themselves in the elections in competitive ways against one another, all sides are at a minimum ambivalent. They don't know which candidates they should really favor; they don't know which coalitions they really should favor. And instead, I think they're beginning to think more about what kinds of outcomes they want, and here there's a potential for convergence. Because I think both sides want a stable political environment in Ukraine -- despite what many Ukrainians would say about Russian desires -- and I think they want an environment where Ukraine can indeed begin to make some progress with its economic development, with its foreign policy. And I think that's also a good thing -- that we care more about the results and the process than we do about the horses we want to bet on....(more)

Click on the image for background and archived articles about Ukraine's March 26 elections.

Click on the image to see RFE/RL's coverage of the Ukrainian elections in Ukrainian.