Ukraine has followed the lead of the OSCE in not recognizing the official results of Azerbaijan’s November 6 parliamentary elections. A Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesman said, “We support the earlier conclusions of the OSCE observer mission on this question and are awaiting the final verdict of the [OSCE] mission” (Ukrayinska pravda, November 8).
The Pora youth NGO also issued a sharp condemnation of the election that concurred with the OSCE and the Yushchenko administration. But Pora demanded a sharper response from the Ukrainian authorities. A representative of the Azeri opposition bloc Azadliq attended the Pora press conference (pora.org.ua, November 7, 8).
Ukraine’s official position is to support a non-violent resolution of the situation in Azerbaijan, the use of legal means to resolve conflicting election issues, and for the Azerbaijani state to uphold human rights. These positions flow from Ukraine’s Orange Revolution and the resolution of that crisis through parliament, the Supreme Court, and internationally brokered roundtable negotiations. Ukraine’s Orange Revolution has become an inspiration for opposition groups in authoritarian regimes. President Viktor Yushchenko told the BBC that his country has “set a good example for the millions of people who still cherish freedom and democracy” (BBC, October 14).
Ukraine’s support for the OSCE election-monitoring process is a new phenomenon since Yushchenko’s election. Like Moldova and Georgia, Ukraine has pulled out of the Russian-backed Commonwealth of Independent States Election Observer Mission (CIS EOM) that unfailingly rules every election in the CIS — including the latest in Azerbaijan — to have been held in a “free and fair” manner.
Ukraine’s shift brings it closer to Georgia, and Kyiv and Tbilisi have together created a “Community of Democratic Choice” that is envisioned as stretching from the Baltic through the Black to the Caspian Seas. The Community is meant to back up the Bush administration’s drive to spread democracy abroad. Since 1997 Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, and Moldova have formed the GUAM regional group. Uzbekistan joined in 1999 (making it GUUAM) only to pull out this year because it does not uphold democratic values. Should Azerbaijan now follow suit, GUAM could very well shrink to GUM.
Ukraine’s relations with the incumbent regime in Azerbaijan are likely to deteriorate after this election. Baku apparently considers Ukrainian youth linked to the Pora (It’s Time) group as a threat, judging by recent deportations and arrests. Following the Orange Revolution the Pora NGO created a political party to contest Ukraine’s parliamentary elections and an activist center to export their election skills across the CIS. Perhaps fearing a repeat scenario, Azerbaijani officials deported Pora leaders and activists before and during the elections. In September the Azeri authorities deported Serhiy Yevtushenko, a high-ranking Pora leader who is also an adviser to Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Borys Tarasyuk.
Ukraine and Azerbaijan also came into dispute over Rasul Guliyev, a leader of the Azerbaijani political opposition attempting to return to Azerbaijan after living in exile in the United States. Guliyev was briefly arrested in the Crimean capital, Simferopol, on October 17 and then allowed to return to the United Kingdom. Baku had hoped Kyiv would deport him to Azerbaijan where he is wanted on corruption charges (Ukrayinska pravda, October 18, also see EDM, October 19).
Azerbaijan also deported Pora activists who had traveled to Azerbaijan to act as election observers (obkom.net.ua, Ukrayinska pravda, November 8). These representatives included a senior leader of the Pora party, Yevhen Zolotariov, and Serhiy Taran, head of the Kyiv-based Institute for Mass Media, Ukraine’s representation for the international watchdog Reporters Without Frontiers.
Leaders in Belarus are also on guard against a potential Orange Revolution inside their borders. Taran had just returned from a conference at the Washington-based U.S. Institute of Peace where lessons from the Georgian and Ukrainian revolutions were discussed. The second day of the conference investigated whether non-violent resistance could take place in Belarus, set to hold an election in 2006 where President Alexander Lukashenka hopes to win a third term (see usip.org/events/2005/1011_georgiaukraine.html).
For the first time, this year Ukraine’s UN representatives have sided with the United States in denouncing the human rights situation inside Belarus. Worse still for Belarus is the comparison of the Lukashenka and Nazi regimes made by Ukrainian Prime Minister Yuriy Yekhanurov at a November meeting at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Belarus and Russia protested the comparison.
Five Pora and 14 Russian youth activists were arrested in Minsk on April 26 for taking part in an opposition rally. The Russians were quickly released, but the Ukrainians were imprisoned until the following month. One of the arrested was Giorgi Kandelaki, an adviser to Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, who attended the same U.S. Institute of Peace seminars as Pora activist Taran.
In August, Georgian Kmara activists were arrested in Minsk and deported. The Belarusian KGB accused them of making “contacts with representatives of radical, politicized unregistered structures, such as Zubr, the Youth Front, and Limon, and holding a number of training seminars on the organization of civil-disobedience actions accompanied by mass unrest, similar to those during the colored revolution in Georgia” (RFE/RL, August 25).
The OSCE, U.S., and Ukrainian condemnations of Azerbaijan’s elections place Baku in a difficult position. After the United States and EU condemned Uzbekistan’s massacre of civilian protestors in May in Andijan, Uzbekistan re-oriented toward Russia. Azerbaijan’s leaders do not want to follow Uzbekistan’s lead, but neither do they seem able to play by the new democratic rules. GUAM is likely either to lose Azerbaijan’s membership or become marginalized as the Community of Democratic Choice takes its place as the preeminent regional structure.