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Top message:  Ukraine: President, opposition sign crisis deal by loco503   Feb 21, 2014, 12:51 PM

Replying to:  Re: Ukraine: President, opposition sign crisis deal by loco503   Feb 21, 2014, 12:52 PM

Re: Ukraine: President, opposition sign crisis deal

by loco503    Feb 21, 2014, 12:52 PM

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Moreover, the protests themselves are not
particularly representative of the views of a
broader Ukrainian polity. The claims that
“the movement as a whole merely reflects
the entire Ukrainian population, young and
old,” find very little support. In this, as in
virtually every area of political opinion,
Ukrainians are pretty clearly divided.
Surveys taken in the past two months in the
country as a whole range both in quality
and in results, but none show a significant
majority of the population supporting the
protest movement and several show a
majority opposed. Recent surveys provide
suggestive findings that quite large
majorities oppose the takeover of regional
governments by the opposition. The most
reliable and most recent survey shows the
population almost perfectly divided in its
support for the protest: 48 percent in favor,
46 percent opposed.
The protesters’ inability to garner greater
support is surprising given the fact that
Yanukovych’s popularity is far below 50
percent (although he is still apparently the
most popular political figure in the
country). One reason for this failure is that
anti-Russian rhetoric and the iconography
of western Ukrainian nationalism does not
play well among the Ukrainian majority.
Almost half of Ukraine’s population resides
in the South and East of the country, what
was once called “New Russia” when it was
settled in the 19 century by a very diverse
population of migrants from within the
Russian empire. It is an area that has, for
over 200 years, identified strongly with
Russia , and nearly all of these Ukrainian
citizens are alienated by anti-Russian
rhetoric and symbols. The anti-Russian
forms of Ukrainian nationalism expressed
on the Maidan are certainly not
representative of the general view of
Ukrainians. Electoral support for these
views and for the political parties who
espouse them has always been limited.
Their presence and influence in the protest
movement far outstrip their role in
Ukrainian politics and their support barely
extends geographically beyond a few
Western provinces.
Relatedly, there is little evidence that a
clear majority of Ukrainians support
integration into the European Union —
despite the fact that the turn away from the
European Union sparked the initial
protests. While different polls show varying
levels of support for European integration
(e.g. this recent one from SOCIS), most show
around 40-45 percent support for European
integration as compared to about 30 to 40
percent support for the Customs Union – a
plurality for Europe but hardly a clear
mandate.
In conclusion, we should always be very
wary of claims that protests speak “for the
people.” We should be particularly wary
when “the people” referred to are the people
of Ukraine. If 20 years of scholarship and
surveys teach us one thing, it is that
Ukraine is a country that is deeply divided
on virtually every issue pertaining to
relations with Russia or the West, with
very deep historic divisions that continue to
bear on contemporary politics.
Ukrainians are, however, quite unified in
the desire to be governed better than they
have been for the past 20 years. The mass
protests were primarily a response to efforts
by President Yanukovych to impose a more
repressive regime. Those on the square are
not, on the whole, motivated by an
affiliation for the far right or its agenda for
Ukraine. Yet the heavy symbolic and
organizational presence of the far right in
the protests has surely limited the extent to
which the protests can find majority
support in the country and undermined
their effectiveness in producing a better
government for Ukraine’s citizens. A clear
majority of Ukrainians could certainly be
persuaded to abandon support for
Yanukovych in an election, but the lack of
majority support for the protests suggest
that they might not take that option if it is
presented to them wrapped in the violent
anti-Russian rhetoric of the nationalist
right.

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