The initial results that are still provisory reveal Prime Minister Viktor Ianoukovitch winner 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

"It has been emphasised that the struggle was a tense yet open one and the victory is convincing." It was with this on Monday that Vladimir Putin, President of Russia, who travelled to the Ukraine on 12th November last, congratulated Prime Minister Viktor Ianoukovitch on his victory in the second round of the presidential election in the Ukraine. According to the results, that are still provisory and highly disputed by the opposition, the ruling candidate won 49.42% of the vote versus 46.7% for his adversary, Viktor Iouchtchenko (Our Ukraine).

Two exit polls undertaken by the centre for sociology SOCIS, the research institute Razoumkov and the international centre for sociology in Kiev (KMIS) revealed however Viktor Iouchtchenko as winner on Sunday evening with respectively three and eleven points more than the Prime Minister. KMIS director, Volodymyr Paniotto had maintained that the results could vary by 2 to 3% but the "order of the candidates would remain the same."

Viktor Ianoukovitch immediately announced "the political burial" of the opposition. The Prime Minister was congratulated by Boris Gryzlov, President of the Douma, the Lower Chamber in Russian parliament. "According to opinion and our observers, the election respected democratic principles and the infringements that took place could in no way have influenced the result in any decisive manner," maintained the latter. Viktor Ianoukovitch also received a message from the secretary of the Community of Independent States (CIS), Vladimir Rouchaïlo, who declared that the election had been "free and transparent". Demonstrations in support of the Prime Minister were organised in the east of the country from where he originates. Around ten thousand people came to Donetsk, the town where Viktor Ianoukovitch was governor.

On the announcement of the results Viktor Iouchtchenko's supporters rallied to denounce electoral fraud and proclaim the victory of their candidate. "We won and that's it. We are launching a movement of civil resistance. Our action has only just started. Stay where you are. From every corner of the Ukraine, tens of thousands of people are on their way here by cart, car, plane or train. Do not leave Independence Square until we have victory." urged Viktor Iouchtchenko who called on his supporters to "demonstrate peacefully". For her part Ioulia Timochenko, leader of the Bloc belonging to the opposition bearing the same name in Parliament called for a general strike. About fifty tents were set up in Independence Square to enable demonstrators to take over the space until their demands were heard. Viktor Iouchtchenko's supporters hope that their pacific action will have the same effect as the popular revolt that contributed to the fall of Slobodan Milosevic in Serbia on October 5th 2000 and Edward Shevardnadze in Georgia on 23rd November 2003.

In Lviv, over thirty thousand opposition candidate supporters rallied before the seat of the Electoral Commission in the town to reject the election results and to denounce the fraud that had tarnished the voting. The opposition called on demonstrators to travel to Kiev to "enforce their citizen's rights". Sergiy Kivalov, president of the Central Electoral Commission rejected all criticism from the opposition, saying however that he would enquire into the infringements that had been reported to him.

Amongst other things the opposition is demanding the cancellation of the results in the regions of Donetsk and Louhansk. In both of these town the participation rate rose to 96 and 88% respectively, "a level that had never been attained before even during the Soviet period" declared Andriy Maguera, the opposition representative within the Central Electoral Commission. Nationally the participation rate was higher than that recorded in the first round on 31st October last (+4.52 points) rising to 79%. In the western regions of the country, who are in favour of opposition candidate Viktor Iouchtchenko, the participation rate reached 80% which was slightly less than during the first round.

The town council in Kiev refused to acknowledge the results of the second round of the presidential election and called on the Ukrainian Parliament not to validate them. The town also requested the police to ensure the security of the demonstrators who had gathered in Independence Square in protest against the election results. Three towns in the west of Ukraine, Lviv, Ternopil and Ivano-Frankivsk refused to acknowledge Prime Minister Viktor Ianoukovitch's victory and declared Viktor Iouchtchenko President of the Ukraine.

The Foreign Ministers of EU25 declared "how worried" they were. "It is important that we convey as clearly as possible the European Union and its Member States' pre-occupation about the result of the presidential election," said Bernard Bot, the Dutch Foreign Minister, whose country is ensuring the presidency of the Union. "We have held out a hand to the Ukraine. But it takes two to shake hands. The Ukraine must clearly show that it sees its future in the West and that it respects a minimum of democratic rules," he added. In each of the capitals of the twenty-five Union members the Ukrainian ambassadors are to be summoned by the national authorities who will tell them of how worried the Europeans are.

Senator Richard Lugar, president of the Foreign Affairs Commission for the American Senate and President George Bush's envoy did not waste time in talking openly of the infringements and accused the ruling party directly. "It is clear that there was a wide-ranging and concerted programme of fraud on Election Day, either under the control of the authorities or with their complicity," he declared.

"The election does not meet a significant number of OSCE criteria nor any of the other European standards in terms of a democratic election," maintained Bruce George, head of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe's observation taskforce. The OSCE accuses the Ukrainian government of having pressurised civil servants, forcing them to withdraw their permits that would have enabled them to vote outside of their constituencies and of having made them deliver these permits to their superiors. According to Bruce George a great number of voters (around 5%) were also added to the electoral lists on the day of the second round of the election. The head observer also denounced "a very biased attitude on the part of the media that are controlled by the State and who continued to support the Prime Minister." Finally Lucio Malna, an observer for NATO's Parliamentary Observatory emphasised the "unreal" nature of some of the participation rates recorded in the east of the country, in the regions who support the Prime Minister Viktor Ianoukovitch.

The Public Prosecutor, the security services and the Interior Minister warned in a press release that they were prepared to intervene at any moment in order to maintain public order. "We remind the organisers of the demonstrations to be aware of their personal responsibility in the face of the various consequences. We can assure you that if the constitutional regime and citizens' security are threatened we are prepared to end any illegal activities quickly and firmly," maintained the release. The day before the second round President of the Republic Leonid Koutchma warned in a televised speech: "The government will now allow a democratic process to be transformed into non-democratic violence and an aggressive minority to dictate political logic. There will be no revolution. But there will be an election worthy of a 20th Century European State," he declared. "The elections will take place and the country and the people must remain united," urged the Prime Minister Viktor Ianoukovitch, who also denounced the opposition calling on people "to mount the barricades".

The Ukraine has therefore been rent asunder in the aftermath of the presidential election. "In the Ukrainian political system the departure of a President of the Republic means a disruption of the political and economic elite who are closely linked to him and who fight in order to take over or maintain power," emphasised Irina Bekechkina, a political analyst from the "Democratic Initiatives" Foundation. No one doubt that the men from President Leonid Koutchma's networks, who are also those who support Prime Minister Viktor Ianoukovitch, will do all they can to maintain their power. "Viktor Iouchtchenko did not leave them much room for hope. He promised to review some especially scandalous privatisations," pointed out political analyst Alexandre Dirgatchev. The next few days will decide on the future - exhaustion or escalation - of the movement to denounce the fraud and contest of the results of this presidential election.

The Ukraine is neither Serbia nor Georgia. Indeed the country, that is undergoing high economic growth, is divided making it difficult for the opposition forces to mobilise the public. "We are not in the same position as Georgia. Here the government has the loyalty of the police and the army as well as the support of Russia. Leonid Koutchma's team has also learned from the events in Serbia and Georgia - increasing pensions, grants and by freezing some prices as the presidential election approached," declared Volodimir Lessik of Pora.

The Electoral Commission has until 6th December to announce the final results of the second round of the presidential election. During the first round on 31st October the Commission took ten days to count the last 2% of the voting slips and two weeks to publish the results. The results had also been reversed, with Viktor Iouchtchenko finally coming out ahead of Viktor Ianoukovitch. The electoral campaign had been suspended on the announcement of the official results enabling the Prime Minister alone to be present on the political stage as head of government.

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