Tymoshenko refuses to concede defeat and resign as PM, and insists on challenging the vote results. Image Credit: EPA

The political standoff in Ukraine is a striking example of how democracy is stripped of its essence and used as a means for chaos. Since the first round of presidential elections ended with the expected runoff between the incumbent Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and the elected president in 2004, Viktor Yanukovich prevented from office by Tymoshenko and her pro-western ally Viktor Yushchenko it was anticipated that Yanukovich would win.

In voting praised by all foreign monitors as an "impressive display of democracy", what happened six years ago was repeated: the pro-Russia party defeated the pro-West one.

Tymoshenko refuses to concede defeat and resign as PM, and insists on challenging the vote results. She has not yet called on her supporters to take to the streets in massive protests, but she seems determined to launch a cynically termed "democratic coup", not much different from the one she was part of in 2004.

I still remember the statements of Tony Blair, Condoleezza Rice and others encouraging the "orange revolution" in Ukraine. The coloured revolution was a coup-de-tat on democracy by calling on people to demonstrate to stop an elected president from taking office. Through total chaos, Yushchenko and Tymoshenko hijacked power as president and prime minister, respectively. They overturned the public's decision to choose Viktor Yanukovich who won that election.

That example of imposing the will of a few on the majority of a country in the name of democracy became known as an American policy of "creative chaos" which in fact was targeting democracy at its core: the free choice of the people to decide who rules them. It is synonymous with the political hypocrisy of politicians in western countries advancing the cause of minorities like gays and lesbians or pro-abortion groups because they are active lobbyists with louder voices in the media.

Since the collapse of the Soviet bloc, such a tactic was tried, but failed in other countries, for example in China in Tiananmen Square in 1989. The second term of former American president George W. Bush witnessed a surge in pushing such tactics to change regimes as regime change in Iraq by invasion and occupation faced popular opposition. The trend didn't fade away with the departure of Bush and Blair from office, and the most recent coloured chaos was in Iran last summer: the "green uprising" against the re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad led by those defeated in the election.

Previously, coups were carried out by the military to stop the civil democratic process in a country. The last notable one was in Algeria in January 1992, when the army cancelled elections won by the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS). Though the military rules in some countries in Africa, Asia and South America, the idea of a change through the Army is no longer palatable to the western public. The so-called "coloured revolutions by ultra-liberalists" is more persuasive.

Even if Ahmadinejad influenced the rural masses of Iran to vote for him and Yanukovich relied on protest votes of the majority who were disappointed with the "orange" leaders who achieved none of their economic promises, still it was the popular vote of the majority that chose them. Politicians even lie in the most established democracy and launch illusive promises to manipulate the electorate and we get them in office only to discover quickly that we were deceived.


But it is again the arrogance and hypocrisy of those who preach freedom and democracy while they sabotage it and try to tailor it to suit their interests just like the campaign against Islamic symbols in Switzerland and France and racist laws in Italy against North Africans. Even in the UK and US, if students interrupt a speech by the Israeli ambassador, they will be arrested and prosecuted (as happened at the University of California last week), but if they heckle a Syrian official they will be hailed as democratic warriors.

Such a trend damages people's trust in democracy, particularly that deformed one which favours the pro-western minorities over the majority in Third World countries. Moreover, it might backfire and lead to more totalitarian regimes in the same countries where the West wants to change regimes. Egypt is a good example, as whenever a group of activists appears to be supported by the West they lose all public support and disappear from the public scene.

Dr Ahmad Mustafa is a London-based Arab writer.