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Ukraine - Presidential Election

Viktor Ioutchenko is elected president of the Republic of the Ukraine after the third round of the election

Viktor Ioutchenko is elected president of the Republic of the Ukraine after the third round of the election

31/10/2004 - Results - 3rd round

With 51.99% of the vote Viktor Yuchenko (Our Ukraine) was elected President of the Republic of the Ukraine after the third round of the presidential election organised following the invalidation by the country's Supreme Court on 3rd December of the second round due to massive infringements that had taken on 21st November. His adversary Viktor Yanukovich (Regional Party) won 44.19% of the vote. The participation rate rose to 77.22% i.e. 3.6 points less than on 21st November last.

"It is a victory for the Ukrainian people, for the Ukrainian nation. We have been independent for fourteen years, now we are free", declared Viktor Yuchenko after the announcement of the first set of results to an audience of supporters who had gathered in Independence Square in Kiev. "Ukraine's future depends neither on Moscow, nor Poland, nor America, nor Europe. Ukraine's future only depends on us", he added inviting the population to "roll up its sleeves to serve the country". "Everything will happen according to the law and no one should be in fear of anything. Viktor Yuchenko and I do not eat children for breakfast, we are normal people. (...) There will be reforms on different levels but that does not mean that we shall be cruel in what we do. A new political era is opening up today in the Ukraine. It is the beginning of a great new democracy", maintained Julia Timochenko for her part on the TV channel Kanal 5.

However it took Viktor Yanukovich five days not to admit defeat, something he still has not done, but at least to accept the election of his adversary as President of the Republic. The Prime Minister, who was determined to "defend the vote of (my) his electorate by all possible legal means", lodged four complaints with the Central Electoral Commission for "systematic infringement of the electorate's constitutional rights", that were witnessed during the election according to him. Notably he denounced the fact that, in his eyes, millions of voters - the old and the sick - were not able to vote due to a law limiting the right to vote at home that was not annulled just before the election. Viktor Yanukovich's complaints were rejected on 30th December and he announced his resignation during a speech broadcast by the TV channel TRK-Ukraïna. "I have taken a decision and I present a formal request to resign. In the present situation I believe that it is impossible to take up any position in a State led by this power", declared the candidate of the present ruling power. "For the first time in thirteen years our country is close to serious defeat, its independence is in danger. External forces have used this domestic crisis to show the entire world their strength and influence", he added qualifying the third round of the presidential election as "illegitimate". Viktor Yanukovich also maintained that he would continue to fight "with all possible means to protect the State, the respect of the Constitution of civil rights and the freedom of the people". The outgoing Prime Minister now has seven days to appeal to the Supreme Court against the rejection of his complaints by the Central Electoral Commission. He might also challenge the election results before the Supreme Court after its official publication in the government journals.

During a televised presentation of his New Year's greetings outgoing President Leonid Kouchma called on the Ukrainian people "to accept the democratic choice" of the presidential election of 26th December. "In 2005 the Ukraine will have a new President and all of the Ukraine must accept this democratic choice as its own since this person will need your support", he declared, without however quoting the name of Viktor Yuchenko. "We stand before major new tasks and behind us there is the ground we have already covered. Some countries have taken decades to achieve this and unfortunately many have not done so in a peaceful manner and without blood being spilt. I would like to express my gratitude to those who have helped in launching the constitutional reform and to all of those who have defended their rights for their political choice during the presidential election, whatever that choice was and to all of the those who enabled the peaceful settlement of the recent political crisis", added the outgoing President.

"This Sunday was a good day for democracy. It is important that the democratic process continues unhindered with the help of all of the parties", declared the President of the European Commission José Manuel Durao Barroso; he then added "It was also an important day for relations between the European Union and the Ukraine. The holding of free and just elections opens the way towards enhanced co-operation with this country employing to the full the action plan that was planned for within the Union's neighbourhood policy". Via the Secretary of State, Colin Powell, the USA for its part qualified the election as "free and just" and as an "historical moment". "The Ukrainians can be proud of this achievement", emphasised Colin Powell

The third round of this election is however a dramatic defeat for Vladimir Putin who, in spite of accepting the result of the ballot, had committed himself personally in favour of Viktor Yanukovich, travelling twice to the Ukraine before the first and second rounds in support of the candidate of the government in power. In the days that followed the second round of the election and whilst Viktor Yuchenko's supporters denounced massive infringements the Russian President did not think twice about denouncing a "foreign conspiracy". Vladimir Putin was extremely critical of the "orange revolution", that occurred just a year after the "rose revolution" in Georgia, when Edward Shevardnadze was overthrown bringing Mikhail Saakachvili to the head of the country. The latter, who had studied in the Ukraine and speaks the language very well, travelled to Kiev to celebrate the New Year 2005; "I came to Kiev on the invitation of Viktor Yuchenko and to greet the Ukrainians for the New Year and congratulate them on their victory. I wish you a very happy new year with your new President", declared Mikhaïl Saakachvili. With the election of Viktor Yuchenko, Russia will have to face a more independent country with whom negotiations will be harder than in the past. Finally since the Ukrainian scenario might inspire its Russian neighbours the Russian President can only be afraid even though short term popular demonstrations against Vladimir Putin's government seem impossible and there appears to be no democratic force able to mobilise the population.

More than twelve thousand international observers - a record number - came from the USA, Canada, Europe (European Parliament, Council of Europe and the Organisation for Co-operation and Security in Europe, OSCE) and the Community of Independent States (CIS), were present in order to monitor the legality of this presidential election in the thirty-three polling stations across the country. On 21st November last five thousand people were mobilised. Four of the fifteen members of the former Central Electoral Commission were also dismissed and a new president Yaroslav Davidovich was appointed as head of the institution.

"The Ukrainian presidential election has drawn significantly closer to OSCE standards and other European and national norms. The people of this great country have made a major step towards holding free and fair elections via the election of their next President", said Bruce George OSCE observation assignment leader. Ohor Popov, president of the Ukrainian NGO, the Committee of Electors, said that he thought that "there had been some infringements but that they were not serious or systematic".

21st November-26th December: A review of the facts

As soon as the results of the second round were announced on 21st November last tens of thousands of Viktor Yuchenko's supporters marched to the Maïdan Nezalejnosti (Independence Square) in the capital of Kiev. During a parliamentary session that was boycotted by the members of the ruling party on 23rd November, opposition party MP's proclaimed the election of Viktor Yuchenko President of the Republic. The next day the Central Election Commission officially announced Viktor Yanukovich's victory in the second round of the presidential election, which was immediately challenged by the USA, Canada and the countries of the European Union. On 24th November the opposition parties called for a general strike. Three days later the Ukrainian parliament declared the result of the presidential election void. This was annulled on 3rd December by the Supreme Court that called for a new round on 26th December. Finally on 8th December MP's adopted a constitutional reform reducing the powers of the President of the Republic as from September 2005 and voted in amendments to the electoral law in order to limit, as much as possible, the risks of infringements during the election on 26th December.

On 11th December Austrian doctors confirmed that Viktor Yuchenko had been poisoned with dioxin after it had been administered to him orally, undoubtedly by a "third party". The directors of the special Ukrainian services (SBU), with whom the opposition candidate had dined just before his illness appeared, still deny any involvement in the poisoning. On 11th December the regional assembly of Donetsk also cancelled the referendum on the creation of a federation in the Ukraine that had originally been planned for 9th January. "The Ukraine is a united, independent state and our region is part of it and has worked and will always work for the Ukraine and the Ukrainian people", declared Anatoli Blizniouk, the region's governor. "The idea of a referendum was based on emotion. We understand that autonomy would be a dead end", added the spokesperson of the administration of Donetsk, Ihor Tchitchassov.

The future of the Ukraine

Viktor Yuchenko, who is fifty years old and from Khoroujivka in the region of Soumi, 350 kilometres east of the capital, studied economic science in Ternopol in the west of the country. In 1993, when he was deputy director of the State Bank in Kiev, he succeeded his mentor Vadim Hetman as head of the Ukrainian Central Bank. He remained in this position six years and succeeded in gaining control of the galloping inflation rate and in creating the national currency, the hryvnia. In 1999 Viktor Yuchenko was appointed Prime Minister by the President of the Republic Leonid Kouchma; he abolished the barter system that was still widely practised, reformed the energy sector and organised privatisation that was considered transparent and managed to reboot the economy. In 2001, after having been dismissed by Leonid Kouchma, he founded the coalition "Our Ukraine" that became the country's leading political force when it won one hundred and twelve of the four hundred and fifty seats in Parliament during the general elections on 30th March 2002; in the spring of 2004 he joined forces with Julia Timochenko Bloc.

The new President has promised to travel to Russia on his first official trip abroad. "I have not changed my mind. First I shall go to Moscow. I must show Russia that our relationship was distorted since it was serving the Ukrainian clans. We must turn this page now if we are friends prepared to look at each other in the face. We shall forget the portraits of Viktor Yanukovich that were posted everywhere in Moscow. I really did not appreciate the fact that Russia openly supported one candidate. It was insulting for millions of Ukrainians. We shall have to work for over a month for our relationship to return to what it was", declared Viktor Yuchenko in an interview in the Russian daily newspaper Izvestia the day after he was elected as head of the country.

In an interview with the Dutch daily newspaper Algemeen Dagblad the new President also maintained that the Ukraine's accession to the European Union would be the "main objective" of his mandate.

In an interview on the TV channel Kanal 5 on 30th December the new President went back on his promise to review some of the privatisations that were undertaken under the regime of Leonid Kouchma, believing that "such steps would be a source of chaos". During his electoral campaign he had declared that "illegal" privatisations, such as that of the Krivorijstal Steelworks, 93% of whose shares were purchased last June for 800 million dollars by President Leonid Kouchma's son-in-law, Viktor Pintchouk and the richest man in the Ukraine, Rinat Akhmetov, "would be revised according to the law.

The election on 26th December, which was much more than a battle between the East and the West of the country, in fact depended on the Ukrainians' desire to emerge from post-Communism and to live in a society that is free of corruption where the State of Law holds sway. In effect the Ukraine appears to be less divided than some had led us to believe. We should remember that more than 80% of the population in the eastern regions voted for independence in the referendum in 1991 and that in 2001 the proportion of inhabitants in Donetsk who said they were in favour of dividing the country up did not rise above the 5% mark. The "myth" of the Ukraine's division was often used by the President of the Republic, Leonid Kouchma, to justify his policies and authoritarianism, and had never been employed as much as during this presidential election.

Viktor Yuchenko has just over a year before the next general elections in 2006 but only nine months before the application of the constitutional reform in September 2005 (or in January 2006 at the latest) that will reduce the powers of the President of the Republic in favour of Parliament. The new head of State has promised to create a government of national union "to heal the wounds of these elections". This is what the Dutch Foreign Affairs Minister, Bernard Bot, whose country was presiding over the European Union until 31st December, had hoped for. "It would be a good solution since the it is in the West's interest for the Ukraine to remain united", he declared.

According to Volodymir Litvin, president of the Ukrainian Parliament, the events over the last month heralded the "final stage of the collapse of the Soviet Union". Vladimir Malinkovitch, director of the International Institute of Human and Political Studies in Kiev believes that "the Ukraine has left the Russian orbit and will become the first former Soviet republic to break the mould of the Community of Independent States (CIS) that encourage presidential authoritarianism". But the Ukraine will now need the help of all the Western States to succeed in finding a balance between the reforms called for the European Union and Russia's difficulty in watching a country escape from its sphere of influence.
Publishing Director: Pascale JOANNIN
The authors
Corinne Deloy
Author of the European Elections Monitor (EEM) for the Robert Schuman Foundation and project manager at the Institute for Political Studies (Sciences Po).
Fondation Robert Schuman
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