Yushchenko scorned as Ukraine turns its back on the orange revolution

Fifteen months ago, Natasha Diman, then 24, looked every inch the orange revolutionary, camping out in sub-zero temperatures on Kiev's main square in a display of people power that redrew the geopolitical map of Europe.

But as Ukraine went to the polls yesterday, Natasha, like many of her compatriots, said she was deeply disillusioned with the orange revolution to the point where she felt unable to vote for Viktor Yushchenko, the man she helped become the president.

It is such apathy and disenchantment that yesterday saw Mr Yushchenko's party humiliatingly beaten into third place according to two nationwide exit polls which suggested he had won little more than 15 percent of the vote.

If confirmed, the results would be a crushing blow to the pro-Western leader.

By contrast, the polls showed that "the man who lost the orange revolution" ­ the pro-Russian politician Viktor Yanukovych ­ was on course to capture some 30 per cent of the vote in a startling comeback that will delight Moscow and disturb Washington.

But perhaps the biggest surprise was the strong performance of Yulia Tymoshenko, known as "the Ukrainian Joan of Arc" during the revolution. Now estranged from her one-time ally Mr Yushchenko, her political bloc appeared to have won more than a fifth of the vote, putting her in a strong position to demand a place in a new government.

Mr Yushchenko will keep his job as president since the elections are parliamentary, not presidential, but the results will again redraw the political map of Ukraine, possibly tipping it towards the country it so dramatically turned its back on in 2004: Russia.

If a week is a long time in politics, in Ukraine's case 15 months has turned out to be an age.

Before the victory of the revolution was assured, a shivering Natasha Diman told The Independent that she felt highly politicised and hopeful.

An unemployed law graduate, she threw her lot in with Mr Yushchenko to shake off what she described as miserable living standards and an authoritarian, Soviet-style regime that danced to Russia's tune.

Fifteen months later, she doesn't regret her actions but wonders what it was all for. "We still hope for the best but nothing has really changed," she says.

"Yushchenko is a decent man, but too soft. He says good things but then does nothing when people around him do the opposite. He has forgotten that unlike the people politicians come and go."

Mr Yushchenko's image was damaged by a scandal around his son Andrei who was revealed to be leading a lavish lifestyle on income he allegedly derived from cashing in on the merchandising boom which followed the orange revolution.

It was hard for ordinary Ukrainians to accept since, crucially, revolutionary fervour has not brought improved living standards for most.

People scrape by on an average monthly wage of $150 (£86), prices fluctuate wildly, and unemployment is rife, while gas prices have risen sharply after a dispute with Russia that saw the country's supplies temporarily cut off in a pricing row.

Natasha is a case in point ­ she may have been one of its most loyal foot soldiers but she feels the revolution has not rewarded her idealism.

She is doing unpaid work experience in a bank in Kiev, the capital, has no income apart from savings and contributions from relatives, and says she has little prospect of anything better despite being well qualified.

Indeed many Ukrainians who have become disenchanted with the orange revolution are now looking for pragmatic as opposed to idealistic solutions to their problems.

That yesterday's elections do not carry the same weight as the orange revolution is indisputable, but they are highly significant.

Their outcome will dictate the make-up of a new, more powerful, parliament as well as the composition of a new government that will emerge from possibly weeks of horse-trading and backroom deals. And while Mr Yushchenko will have the right to appoint the foreign and defence ministers, all the other jobs, including the influential portfolio of prime minister, will be decided by the new parliament.

The ballot will inevitably produce a coalition government since no one party won enough votes to govern alone.

And whatever happens, Mr Yushchenko, whose personal popularity rating has crashed from 70 to around 20 per cent, will ultimately be forced to compromise and join forces with unpalatable allies.

For Viktor Yanukovych, the pro-Moscow candidate defeated so convincingly in 2004, it is a startling comeback.

With the help of slick American spin-doctors, Mr Yanukovych has come back from the political grave, reinvented himself as a man who can do business with Brussels and Moscow, and has deftly capitalised on the orange government's every stumble.

His Party of the Regions looks like it will have almost half the seats in the 450-member parliament. Conversely, Mr Yushchenko's Our Ukraine party looks like a spent force.

Ironically, Our Ukraine was up against the political bloc of Yulia Tymoshenko, the fiery photogenic Ukrainian nationalist who stood shoulder to shoulder with Mr Yushchenko during the orange revolution and was one of his closest allies.

The two fell out spectacularly last September when Mr Yushchenko sacked her as prime minister arguing that his government had become paralysed by infighting, personal rivalry and Machiavellian plotting.

Ms Tymoshenko is banking on a spectacular comeback and is likely to push hard for Mr Yushchenko to reinstate her as prime minister.

Mr Yushchenko has promised to start negotiations to form a government as early as today with the forces traditionally associated with the orange revolution including Ms Tymoshenko's party. But whether he can clinch a deal remains uncertain since relations between Mr Yushchenko and Ms Tymoshenko are said to be glacial.

If that option fails, he may look to form "a grand coalition" with his one-time nemesis Mr Yanukovych. Such a coalition would unite the Ukrainian-speaking West of the country as represented by Mr Yushchenko with the Russian-speaking east as represented by Mr Yanukovych.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Training Officer

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Training Officer is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Technical Support Specialist - Document Management

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A leading provider of document ...

Recruitment Genius: Legal Secretary

£17000 - £17800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to work ...

Recruitment Genius: Ad Ops Manager - Up to £55K + great benefits

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a digital speci...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent