Few imagined Viktor Yushchenko would suffer such a humiliating reversal of fortunes so swiftly after he swept to power. His party was tipped to take second place in the poll but no-one expected it to trail a poor third. Though his job as president is not at risk, the surprise outcome highlights he is no longer Ukraine’s most popular politician.
Ukrainians now enjoy freedom of expression, but monthly wages are a little above a hundred euros and prices fluctuate erratically. Some analysts say Yushchenko squandered his overwhelming popularity by failing to curb systematic corruption. Differences over the direction of the economy also sparked infighting within “Orange” ranks and led to him removing his close comrade Yulia Tymoshenko from her post as prime minister.
Yushchenko’s position is now also weakened by constitutional reform that has trimmed his powers and extended those of parliament. For now, he can only content himself with the thought that the staging of democratic elections in Ukraine was itself a victory for the Orange forces.