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Commentary :: International
George Power NOT = People Power
02 Dec 2004
George Power NOT = People Power

People power? Or George power?

by Mark Almond

29 November 2004, New Statesman

People power? Or George power?

[Published version slightly edited, full text below]

Having promised to “spend whatever it takes” to defeat George W. Bush(), billionaire philanthropist, George Soros said he felt like retiring to a monastery after the President’s re-election.

Back home the two Georges may be deadly enemies, but outside America the missionaries of Soros’s lavishly funded “Open Society” foundations march in parallel columns with the Bush administration. Domestic culture wars don’t stop America’s big two foreign policy players presenting a united front abroad when it comes to promoting friends and punishing foes.

A year ago, the two Georges jointly helped topple Georgia’s president Eduard Shevardnadze by putting financial muscle and organisational metal behind his opponents. Ukraine is the latest country to feel the full force of the two Georges’ displeasure.

George Bush’s representatives have denounced alleged election fraud there. Soros’s local activists – including Georgian veterans - march in the streets in support of the West’s favoured candidate, Viktor Yushchenko and provide the visiting media and election observers with a full palate of allegations of fraud and intimidation. .

The key charge is that the official results are at odds with exit polls run by what Western embassies call “independent” polling agencies even though the same embassies channelled the funds to pay for them.

Four weeks ago the exit polls in America were also wildly out. The official result in Florida for instance was 6% worse for John Kerry than the poll, a similar swing in Ohio put W. back into the White House. Republican Senator Richard Lugar was in Ukraine but he didn’t caution locals against taking exit polls at face value.

I talked with two Ukrainian exit pollsters in western Ukraine. Their method was simple. They stopped every twentieth voter and asked how they voted. There was no weighting by age, class, etc. Forty per cent refused to say how they voted. Eighty per cent of my sample voted for the opposition candidate Viktor Yushchenko, who has cried foul accusing government supporters installing his rival, Prime Minister, Viktor Yanukovich.

But things are not so simple. The two pollsters were also local figures, pro-Yushchenko journalists Mightn’t a Yanukovich voter be shy of stating a preference to them? Despite allegations about media bias towards the prime minister, in western Ukraine you would not have known he existed from what I saw on television. Even on polling day, local television channels showed Mr Yushchenko voting and other public figures but not his rival!

In reality, at least half of Ukraine is as firmly in the grip of the Opposition as the east may be under the thumb of the government. But our media prefers the modern fairy tale of People Power. Plucky embattled freedom-loving youthful opposition versus slab-faced communist apparatchiks and oligarchs.

In western Ukraine the media is solidly pro-Yushchenko. Eurovision winner, Ruslana, and a host of other pop stars big in Ukraine appeared on television on election eve sporting orange symbols and urging people to vote despite a ban on “agitation” the day before the poll.

One observer, Tory MEP, Charles Tannock compared Ukraine to despotic Turkmenistan because Yanukovich was virtually unanimously endorsed by his home region in eastern Ukraine, but Mr Tannock ignored 90% plus votes in pro-Yushchenko western regions. Maybe Ukraine is deeply polarised. Maybe both candidates have enforcers in their own regions who can stuff ballots. What is certain is that Western observers never cry foul when a Soros-backed candidate gets a Saddam-style result.

As in Ukraine today, a year ago, in Georgia, Western election observers are led by Labour MP, Bruce George. His criticisms then helped get the steam up for People Power there. Yet a few weeks later, he saw nothing odd when the West’s favourite candidate replaced Shevardnadze winning 96% of the vote!

Generous George Soros stepped in to pay the salaries of the new president’s ministers and policemen in Georgia. Oddly enough, Mr Soros’s business partner, Kaka Bendukidze, became economy minister in Georgia. Mr Soros owns 10% of Bendukidze’s Russian-based energy and engineering conglomerate OMZ.

Does George Soros have similar partners in waiting for Ukraine? Unfortunately, Transparency International, another Soros-funded NGO which exposes the hidden ties of business and politics around the world never reports on its patron’s activities.

Competitors at home, Bush and Soros always seem to be on the same winning side abroad. Whether ordinary Ukrainian voters will see much benefit from another win for the Two Georges is another matter.

This work is in the public domain
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