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Viktor Yushchenko, former President of Ukraine, received the 2011 Dole Leadership Prize.
“We are honored to give the Dole Leadership Prize to such a great cultural and revolutionary icon,” said Bill Lacy, director of the Dole Institute. “Yushchenko and the Orange Revolution ignited a fire for the people of Ukraine, and his victory was a landmark for all of postcommunist eastern Europe.”
Yushchenko served as Prime Minister of Ukraine from 1999-2001. During that time, he addressed economic and social problems by lowering inflation, advancing privatization, and challenging corrupt practices. Although he was a popular prime minister, Yushchenko was forced out of office by higher ranking government officials.
Yushchenko responded by forming a broad-based democratic coalition called Our Ukraine, which was victorious in the parliamentary elections in 2002. The newly organized opposition gave him a platform from which to mount a credible challenge to President Leonid Kuchma, who had been accused of overseeing an increasingly corrupt administration.
During his campaign for the presidency in 2004, Yushchenko became seriously ill from dioxin poisoning in an apparent assassination attempt; his face was left permanently disfigured. Mass protests, which became known as the Orange Revolution, followed a runoff round in which Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych had been declared the winner of fraudulent elections. Thousands of Ukrainian citizens, inspired by Yushchenko’s candidacy and their desire for democracy, occupied the center of the capital city for weeks. The Supreme Court invalidated the falsified result and ordered a second runoff to be held in December 2004. Yushchenko was officially confirmed as the winner the following month.
Yushchenko’s victory was proof that a powerful civic movement, committed opposition politicians, and a resolute, rising middle class had come together to stop the ruling elite from rigging an election and stealing Ukraine’s presidency. The Orange Revolution was a groundbreaking milestone in the history of Eastern Europe since the fall of communism and inspired pro-democracy movements all over the world.
The 2011 Dole Leadership Prize was made possible in part through the generous support of Mr. and Mrs. Brian C. King of Leawood, Kan.