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Orange Revolution

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Orange Revolution

The idea of good government, freedom, and independence formulated a vast revolution in Ukraine. The Orange Revolution began late November 2004 and ended January 2005 when Ukrainians protested and overturned a fraudulent presidential election. Acts of civil disobedience, sit-ins, and general strikes caused the Ukraine’s Supreme Court to annul the presidential election results and order a revote. The Revolution was a great success and mandated a change to the Ukrainian constitution that shifted powers from the presidency to the parliament.

Leader of the revolution, President Yushchenko was leader of the Our Ukraine faction in the Ukrainian parliament and a former Prime Minister (1999-2001). During the revolution he was able to keep a protest of hundreds and thousands of people amazingly peaceful. His political camp and supporters used the color orange to signify his election campaign which later represented the series of events to be called the Orange Revolution.

His opponent was Viktor Yanukovych who was the sitting Prime Minister and also largely supported by Leonid Kuchma, the outgoing President of Ukraine who already served two terms in the office and was prohibited from running himself due to the constitutional term limits.

During the 2004 election, Yanukovych had the support from the outgoing president’s administration that had power over government and state apparatus. In September 2004, one month before the first round of votes, Yushchenko suffered from severe dioxin poisoning which nearly killed him. Many say this was planned by his opponents in hope from him becoming President. Although Yushchenko did not die from this horrific experience the poisoning weakened his health and altered his appearance dramatically. But not even the poisoning or the intimidation from Yanukovch powerful team stopped Yushchenko from returning to the campaign trail.

During the first-round vote held on October 31, 2004, Yanukovych collected 39.2% and Yushchenko collected 39.87% of the vote cast. The other candidates collected much less. Since no candidate passed more than 50% of the cast ballots, a run-off vote between the two leading candidates was mandated by Ukrainian law. During the first round of votes many complaints regarding voting errors in favor of the government supporting Yanukovych were raised. These complaints were not pursued and candidates just concentrated on the upcoming run-off scheduled November 21.

Protests began the eve of the second round of voting when the official count differed markedly from exit poll results which gave Yushchenko up to an 11% lead, while official results gave the election win to Yanukovych by 3%. The Yushchenko team publicized evidence of many incidents of electoral fraud in favor of the government-backed Yanukovych. This fraud was witnessed by many local and foreign observers. The Yushchenko campaign publicly called for protest on Election Day, November 21, 2004, when allegations of fraud began to spread. Beginning on November, 22, 2004, massive protests started in cities across Ukraine which attracted as estimated 500,000 participants, who on November 23, 2004, peacefully marched in front of the headquarters of the Verkhovna Rade, the Ukrainian parliament, wearing the orange clothing and waiving orange flags.

On December 3, 2004, Ukraine’s Supreme Court finally broke the political deadlock. The court ordered a re-vote of the run-off to be held on December 26, 2004. This re-vote led to Yushchenko being nominated President of Ukraine.

As part of the Orange Revolution, the Ukrainian constitution was changed to shift powers from the presidency to the parliament. These laws were amended on December 8, 2004 by parliament. It’s sad to say that although the Orange Party achieved freedom and independence through the changes to the constitution it would never have occurred if these people did not continue to protest through acts of civil disobedience to stop the destructive process that had become a characteristic of Ukraine.

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