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In late 2004, the Orange Revolution took place in Ukraine after elections that were accompanied by widescale corruption and fraud. Initially, Yanukovych was declared the winner. The protests resulted in new elections, closely monitored by international observers. These elections were won by Yushchenko. However, in 2010, Yanukovych returned to power in apparently fair elections.

Many participants in the Orange revolution may have been disappointed in the return to power of Yanukovych. But if this was in free and fair elections, and if elections since then have been free and fair, maybe the actual achievement was not to drive Yanukovych out, but to improve Ukrainian democracy. Has the Orange revolution had a lasting positive influence on the fairness of elections in Ukraine? By positive influence, I mean that the elections are considered fair according to independent observers. So the question consists of two parts:

  • Have elections since 2004 been fairer than the 2004 one, according to independent observers?
  • If yes, can this be attributed to the Orange Revolution?
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    Also, you may wish to define a bit more formally what you mean by "fairness of elections". – user4012 Dec 16 '12 at 22:06
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    What do you mean under "independent observers"? – Anixx Feb 11 '13 at 6:58
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    @gerrit I suggest a term "external observers". – Anixx Feb 11 '13 at 12:12
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    Sure, since "independent observers" are defined as exactly those who support it! – Val Aug 30 '13 at 11:51
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    interesting thing was implemented in last russian presidential election. all polling stations across whole country were equipped with webcameras: bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-16706779. it was known instances when cheaters got caught with stuffing ballots into polling boxes etc. i guess some district results were challenged in the courts with little luck by opposition groups. that's however was where democracy ended. – lowtech Mar 27 '14 at 22:00
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Short answer up front: Yes, election conditions in Ukraine improved after the Orange Revolution, according to independent observers.

The OSCE is one of the gold standards for independent observers of elections, and has been invited to observe all elections in Ukraine since the 1990s. Their reports are all available on the web-page dedicated to Ukrainian elections. Those web pages also contain significant additional information.

Elections Prior to 2004

Elections prior to 2004 were problematic at best, with major shortfalls. In 1999, for example enter link description here, the observers noted:

The Law on Elections of the President of Ukraine was adopted on 25 March 1999.... [But] selective interpretation and enforcement of legal provisions at various levels of the State structure prevented the uniform application of the law. As a result candidates were not competing on a level-playing field in the pre-election period, and the election disputes and appeal procedures generally did not provide the complainants with effective means to seek redress prior to the election.

Emphasis added

In 2002 the observers wrote:

While Ukraine met in full or in part a number of commitments such as universality, transparency, freedom and accountability, it failed to guarantee a level playing field, an indispensable condition to ensure the fairness of the process.

2004 Election

The 2004 election was a pivot point for Ukrainian democracy. The first vote, and the second vote were not truly fair, but the vote called after the "Orange Revolution" showed a shift in attitude by the Ukrainian government towards democratic reform. At the time observers wrote:

The 2004 presidential election in Ukraine was a highly competitive contest, which offered voters a genuine choice between a plurality of candidates. While the 31 October (first round) and 21 November (second round) votes failed to meet a considerable number of OSCE Commitments, Council of Europe and other international standards for democratic elections, the 26 December repeat second round vote brought Ukraine substantially closer to meeting them. The improvement was most clearly demonstrated in the media coverage, the overall conduct of the campaign and the transparency in the CEC performance, including the immediate publication of polling station results. These measures stand in stark contrast to the previous votes, and demonstrate that when a clear political will is evident to conduct an election in line with OSCE commitments, much can ultimately be achieved in a short time period.

In essence, immediately after the Orange Revolution, conditions improved.

Post-2004 Elections

From 2004 to 2012, Ukrainian elections have received mostly positive reports from the OSCE. In 2006, 2007 and 2010 the OSCE observers reported that the elections were mostly in line with standards for free elections. In each case, however, the observers did report that problems continued to exist, and recommend improvements. The most severe rebuke came in the 2007 report which warned:

However, the IEOM also noted some areas of concern, including some recent amendments to the election law, the inadequate quality of voter lists (VLs), and possible disenfranchisement of voters who crossed the state border after 1 August 2007.

In 2012, the quality of Ukrainian elections declined dramatically. The OSCE observers reported:

...certain aspects of the pre-election period constituted a step backwards compared with recent national elections. In particular, these elections were characterized by the lack of a level playing field, caused primarily by the abuse of administrative resources, lack of transparency of campaign and party financing, and the lack of balanced media coverage. While the voting and counting processes on election day were assessed
positively overall, the tabulation of results was negatively assessed in nearly half of the electoral districts observed. Post election day, the integrity of the results in some districts appeared to be compromised by instances of manipulation of the results and other irregularities, which were not remedied by the Central Election Commission (CEC) or the courts. "

This is the election which sparked the Euro-Maidan movement. Tensions which led to violence in the Eastern Provinces continued during the 2013 elections, but those elections were reported as free and fair for the provinces which participated. The ongoing conflict has continued to mar national elections, but in both2014 elections and in 2015, reports by the OSCE were positive.

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There are no independent observers in reality. The most external observer organizations are directly or indirectly sponsored by the USA or their allied countries as part of various pro-democracy programs. Arguably, these organizations play role of political instruments which provide "alternative" election results for each country, obtained by their own methods and serve as basis of whether the US accepts the official results or commands a revolution.

Recently the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) countries also instituted certain international "observer" organizations that watch the elections in CIS, and their conclusions usually radically oppose what the Western observers say.

As to the elections in Ukraine, according the western observers, all instances where a pro-Western (pro-NATO) candidate wins are declared fair while when a pro-Russian(not necessary pro-Putin) candidate wins, declared less fair.

After Yanukovich was re-elected, the western organizations started to drop Ukraine's ratings of freedom of press and other indicators. For example, Reporters Without Borders radically dropped their "freedom of press" index of Ukraine after Yanukovich's elections, according to them this was the result of "the slow and steady deterioration in press freedom since Viktor Yanukovych’s election as president in February"

In reality though there is no change in the actual situation. The press enjoys just the same mode of operation as it did for more than a decade. So these ratings mostly published to exercise pressure on Ukraine.

Regarding elections, arguably the first and the second elections of Yanukovich were at about the same level of fairness. Yanukovich is arguably one of the most popular politician in Ukraine. His opponent in the second elections Yulia Tymoshenko was also quite popular, but Yuschenko was never much popular, and now widely hated.

That said, the elections where Yushenko was declared the winner were the only grossly unfair elections in recent Ukrainian history. They were impacted by the "revolutionary" riots, the Supreme Court nullification of the election (under international pressure from the West) and were accompanied by a prominent propaganda campaign in western media.

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    «The most external observer organizations are directly or indirectly sponsored by the USA» — and we must believe that none are sponsored by the Russia. Nice try, Vladimir, nice try. – bytebuster Nov 20 '15 at 19:35
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    @bytebuster there are some, recently. You can see it from my answer – Anixx Nov 20 '15 at 20:00
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    Thing is that it's pointless to discuss the independence of the referees to uphold the rules of the game if the players are not willing to stick to playing the game in the first place. – Count Iblis Nov 21 '15 at 0:13
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    This answer is like if someone said "What did referees call that last play?" and your response is "I reject the premise of referees, as there can be no truly adjudicated response without social oppression which is unjust." That kind of BS may fly in competitive debate, but here we are looking for answers, not deconstruction of social constructs. – The Pompitous of Love Jun 3 '16 at 18:58
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    You paint Reporters Without Borders "freedom of press" index as a political tool without fundation. Your paragraph starting from "In reality though there is no change in the actual situation." is not documented at all. But actually RWB's reports are very detailled: rsf.org/en/reports/… . – Evargalo Aug 11 '17 at 8:01

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