The best chance for a settlement of the conflict in Ukraine lies in a dissolution of the Verkhovna Rada, the country’s parliament, to be followed promptly by new elections for both parliament and the presidency.
The protesters in Kiev, and across the country, have well-founded grievances, especially against the disproportionately pro-Russian policies of President Viktor Yanukovych. But they are not in a position to overthrow the government. The short-lived occupation of the Ministry of Justice on Sunday and Monday is far from being a promising precedent. Anything resembling a civil war is neither desirable nor feasible.
The opposition are right to persist in their demonstrations – including a degree of civil disobedience against the preposterously sweeping law passed last week to suppress them. It is encouraging that the protests are now spreading; they now include parts of the eastern and southern regions of the country, much of which is Russian-speaking and from which Mr. Yanukovych has long drawn support.
Ukraine is on a fault line between East and West. Ideally, it needs good economic, political and cultural relations with both the European Union and Russia. But at the same time, its best hope for the future lies in a closer alignment with the democratic, rule-of-law West, not the autocrats in Moscow. Mr. Yanukovych’s abrupt tilt in the other direction is what sparked the protests. A fresh election would be a good opportunity to settle the debate democratically, giving Ukrainians a chance to discuss and to decide where they want the balance to be struck.
The last election of the Verkhovna Rada was in October, 2012. In the scheme of things, that now seems quite a long time ago.
Back in early December – soon after Mr. Yanukovych’s sudden rejection of a trade agreement with the EU – Serhiy Arbuzov, the First Deputy Prime Minister, said that new parliamentary and presidential elections were “absolutely” worth considering. They’re an even better idea now.