The two main candidates are running neck and neck after the first round of the presidential election


Corinne Deloy,  

Fondation Robert Schuman,  

Helen Levy


31 October 2004

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Deloy Corinne

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).

Robert Schuman Fondation

Fondation Robert Schuman

Levy Helen

Helen Levy

Prime Minister Viktor Ianoukovich (Regions Party, PR) and the main opposition candidate, Viktor Ioutchenko (Our Ukraine), came out almost equal from the first round of the presidential election in the Ukraine on 31 October. The candidate in power won 39.88% of the vote in comparison with 39.22% for his main rival. "Democracy has won in the Ukraine. People showed that this regime can be beaten," declared Viktor Ioutchenko on the announcement of the first results. "We shall build a government that is respected that no one fears. We shall build a regime where all political parties are represented. Democracy is strong when it has the support of millions of hands," the opposition leader added showing his optimism about his ability to mobilise the electorate in the second round. Political analysts believe that Viktor Ioutchenko achieved a good score during the first round considering the difficult electoral campaign he has had and especially given the limited access he has had to the national media. "The difference of less than one percent can be considered as a relative success for Viktor Ioutchenko," said political analyst Mikhaïlo Pogrebinski, who is nevertheless close to the ruling power.

Oleksandr Moroz (The Socialist Party of the Ukraine, SPU) came third winning 5.77% of the vote followed by Petro Simonenko (Communist Party of the Ukraine, KPU) who won 5.20% of the vote. The participation level, one of the highest ever recorded in the Ukraine rose to 74.48%. We should take note that the electorate in the West of the country, who are much more in favour of Viktor Ioutchenko, were greater in number to vote than those in the East.

There were a number of violent outbreaks and irregularities during the first round depriving many of the electorate their right to vote. Problems with the electoral rolls were observed in the capital of Kiev, in Kharkiv in the East of the country, in Simferopol in the Crimea and in the region of Lviv in the West, where for example the inhabitants of a recently completed tower block had not been registered on the lists. The regional electoral commission of the Crimea received two hundred complaints from voters who had been prevented from voting said Olena Kouzmina, the president of the organisation. There were computer breakdowns in Novoukraïnsk in the South East of the country, in some polling stations voting slips were in short supply, in others they had been written on or covered with distinctive marks.

"Given what we have seen we have to conclude that the first round of the presidential election did not meet OSCE standards, nor those of the Council of Europe and many other democratic electoral standards," said Geert Ahrens, assignment leader for the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). He added, "this election comprises a step backwards in comparison with the last general elections in 2002." The OSCE had sent 600 observers to the Ukraine to monitor the legality of the election.

"Our observers reported that many voters could not vote because their names were not registered on the electoral rolls and that great pressure was put on students by the directors of their establishments," declared Peter Novotny from ENEMO, a European network of NGO's that ensures that elections are properly undertaken. This NGO rallies observers from the 16 countries of Central and Eastern Europe as well as from the former USSR; they were present in around 300 polling stations during the first round of the election across the Ukraine.

The USA also questioned the legality of the first round of the presidential election. Speaking on behalf of the State Department, Adam Ereli, deputy spokesperson of the American Foreign Affairs Ministry, declared that although the full election results would be reviewed before judgement was made, he did however point out that the first round had been marred by "serious infringements" and "significant irregularities". "We look upon the second round on 21 November as an opportunity for the Ukraine to assert its attachment to democratic principles and we urge the authorities to let the people make a free choice." The American Embassy in the Ukraine also condemned the "ransacking, under false pretences, of the offices of NGO's who support democracy along with the homes of their employees; this also included the arrest people fighting for democracy." "If this election does not respect international standards, various measures are being planned against those responsible for this electoral failure; bilateral relations as well as the Ukraine's integration into the Euro-Atlantic institutions will suffer as a consequence," maintained a press release from the American Embassy in Kiev.

For its part the European Union "was disappointed" that the first round of the presidential election had not met democratic standards and called upon the authorities to improve the situation before the second round on 21 November next. The European Union condemned the "the major problems that had occurred with the electoral rolls, the insufficient number of voting slips and the lack of transparency during the counting of the slips,"; it did however say it was pleased with "the high participation rate and the existence of an active civil society during the electoral campaign, that were encouraging elements for the development of democracy in the Ukraine."

In the face of unanimous condemnation Prime Minister Viktor Ianoukovich promised that the "executive power would correct all errors and irregularities that he was worried about, especially the electoral rolls."

During his visit to Kiev on 28 October last to commemorate the 60th Anniversary of the Liberation of the Ukraine from Nazi troops, Russian President Vladimir Putin publicly provided Prime Minister Viktor Ianoukovich with his support, indicating "the positive trends" of the policy undertaken by Leonid Koutchma; he maintained that if the Ukrainians chose another path (other than the one being followed by the present regime), "things would come to a standstill and maybe the situation would even regress."

The results of the first round of the election highlighted the traditional differences that separate the two parts of the Ukraine. Viktor Ioutchenko won almost 90% of the vote in the area of Lviv and Ivano-Frankivsk that lie in the Western part of the country, which is more oriented towards Europe; Viktor Ianoukovich won comparable scores in the East that is closer to Russia and especially in Donetsk, a town where he was governor and Louhansk. The Prime Minister also campaigned for a strengthening of links between the Ukraine and Russia saying that joining the EU and NATO was of no interest to their country. Viktor Ianoukovich who also travelled to Moscow during the electoral campaign to meet Ukrainians of the diasporas (around 3 million live in Russia) is in favour of creating an economic union that unites the Ukraine, Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan.

Many security measures were taken by the government to avoid any disruptions during the first round of the presidential election. One hundred and fifty policemen were deployed in Kiev around the Central Election Commission's headquarters that is also protected by a security fence. In addition to this armoured vehicles and water cannon had been placed inside the walls to disperse any possible demonstrators. Viktor Ioutchenko, who feared electoral fraud, called on his supporters to gather around the polling stations on Sunday night but he finally gave up the idea of a major rally in front of the HQ of the Central Election Commission.

Ten thousand people, most of whom were students gathered in Lviv on Viktor Ioutchenko's request, in protest against the falsification of the first round results. Demonstrators brandished Ukrainian or orange flags, the opposition candidate's colour. In Kiev only three hundred people from the Pora movement (meaning "It is time" in Ukrainian), that unites the students who support Viktor Ioutchenko, gathered at Independence Square to challenge the results of the first round. On Tuesday 2,000 people expressed their support of Viktor Ioutchenko in the streets of Kiev. "The government is lying", "Ioutchenko YES", "No to falsification" chanted the demonstrators. "It is a precautionary informative measure and we intend to organise daily peaceful demonstrations across all of the Ukraine," declared Andriï Iousssov, one of those in charge of Pora.

According to political analysts the votes in favour of Oleksandr Moroz might pass over to Viktor Ioutchenko in the second round whilst those of Petro Simonenko, who is in favour of drawing closer to Russia, should go to the Prime Minister Viktor Ianoukovich. "This election is vital since the choice the Ukraine has to make is as follows: either it swings towards an authoritarian Russian style regime or it continues to struggle towards democracy," maintained political analyst Alexandre Dergatchov. Both Viktors will face each other on 21 November next for the second round of this presidential election.

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