Defeat of President Yushchenko in the 1st round of the presidential election in Ukraine


Mathilde Goanec,  

Helen Levy


19 January 2010

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Goanec Mathilde

Mathilde Goanec

Journalist, correspondent in Ukraine for European French-speaking media.

Levy Helen

Helen Levy

5 years after the Orange Revolution two political enemies, Viktor Yanukovych and Yulia Tymoshenko will face each other in the 2nd round of the presidential election in Ukraine on 7th February next. According to the Central Electoral Commission the Regions' Party leader, Viktor Yanukovych won the 1st round on 17th January with 35.34% of the vote ahead of the present Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko who won 24.97%. This is an honourable score given the pre-election polls which said that she was struggling somewhat. Outgoing President Viktor Yushchenko is the grand loser with 5.48% of the vote. He only came 5th.

The battle between rounds is due to be a close one.

Each camp claims victory

Everything will depend on the transfer of votes won by the small candidates, notably those of Serguey Tigipko, former director of the national bank and an influential economist who came third with 13.05%. Formerly a close ally of Leonid Kuchma (he was even approached to stand instead of Mr Yanukovych in 2004), Serguey Tigipko cast a wide net convincing a rather young, urban electorate who see in him a possible "manager" and a "new face" for the country. Doing better alone than Arseni Yatseniuk and President Viktor Yushchenko together he is now in a strong position to negotiate and above all to clinch a comfortable post after the election.

On the evening of the 1st round the leaders of the Regions' Party and the ByUT celebrated their victory, and are confident of winning on 7th February next. Yulia Tymoshenko, whose face was grim at the end of the electoral evening, wants to rally the "democratic camp" to her name – a way of showing that she is now the only member elect of what is left of the Orange Revolution. One of her strongmen, Deputy Prime Minister Grigroy Nemyria spoke in detail of her electoral strategy: "The Prime Minister is in an excellent position to win this presidential election between rounds. The gap will be easy to close because if we rally all of the votes of the European and democratic candidates together from the first round we shall win with an extremely comfortable majority. What's more we still have three weeks to campaign! Mr Yanukovych wants to limit Ukraine to the USSR's grey area, between Russia and Europe. Yulia Tymoshenko wants Ukraine really to start along the path to the EU." According to Andrew Wilson, a political analyst who is close to the Prime Minister, "negotiations are already ongoing," with S Tigipko to win his votes. "And we are well placed," he believes even though Serguey Tigipko does not seem in a hurry to say which way people should vote.

The Regions' Party is savouring this victory – Viktor Yanukovych was applauded by his campaign team as soon as the exit poll results were released. Rinat Akmetov, Yanukovych's main source of funds welcomed "this step towards victory" with a broad smile. "It is a very good result and I think that Tigipko's result is a plus for Yanukoyich," he stressed. The oligarch, Ukraine's leading fortune, does not usually express his opinion in public on political issues. Viktor Yanukovych believes that his vote "shows the stability of support for the Regions' Party," and he recalled that he wanted to "unite the country for its common interest". It was an extremely consensual speech, designed to reassure voters whilst avoiding the annoyance of those who did not vote for him. He does not have much room to manoeuvre with experts agreeing that he already rallied most of his supporters in the first round. "All he now needs to do," says a European diplomat "is to strike at Tymoshenko, recall her poor results and her economic blunders." This will be sweet revenge, since the iron lady has been calling him an "uncouth criminal" for weeks.

The East and South for Yanukovych, the Centre and West for Tymoshenko

Unsurprisingly voting remained monolithic depending on the regions.

In the east of the country Viktor Yanukovych scored full points with high percentages in the Russian speaking regions of Donetsk (76%), Lugansk (71%), Mikolaïev (51%); notwithstanding the autonomous republic of Crimea, reputed to be pro-Russian where he won 61% of the vote.

Yulia Tymoshenko won the hearts of the centre and the west and notably the region of Voliny (54%) and Vinnitsa (47%) and Rivne (44%).

Kiev voted against the national current. The Prime Minister won 42% in comparison with Yanukovych who only scored 15%. We should note that outgoing President Viktor Yushchenko scored honourably in Lviv (west) where he won 30% and Ternopil, 26%.

Contrary to the fears of many the vote "against everyone", a measure that is allowed in the electoral law did not rise above the 2.2%. Turnout rose to 66% and is 10 points less than in the presidential election in 2004, when the Ukrainians turned out en masse in the first round.

An almost exemplary election according to the OSCE

Finally and this is not usual, Ukraine was congratulated by international opinion on the organization of the election on 17th January. Foreign observers who travelled to the country to monitor the election annotated the running of the proceedings extremely positively.

Pavel Koval, responsible for the MEP delegation in Ukraine welcomed "the enormous change that had taken place since 2004" and "the calm and tranquillity in which the elections took place." Apart from these very enthusiastic speeches that were designed to put pressure on both candidates who were running in the second round some reservations did rise to the surface however.

Heidi Tagliavini, head of the OSCE observation mission laid out in detail the weaknesses in the electoral process. She points to a free press but which is under serious economic influence. "The law has no safeguards to guarantee fair and adequate coverage for each candidate. The fact that several candidates had access to information because they could pay created an unfair situation. 11 candidates had less than 1% access to the media which is not very balanced."

She also criticized the abusive use of administrative resources, for instance the "candidates who do not see the difference between an official function and that of being a candidate, a danger that exists when you occupy an official post and which creates a disadvantage for the others." Yulia Tymoshenko, Prime Ministers, distinguished herself in this way.

Many observers also noted, sometimes quite virulently, the problem of voting at home – "the mobile ballot boxes that travelled the countryside unmonitored." "Although there were no major infringements we have serious doubts about the use of the home vote, decided upon once the electoral procedure had already started," recalls Pavel Koval.

Finally instead of the 750,000 registered for the home vote the figure rose to one million i.e. 3% of the electorate, which in the OSCE's opinion does not comprise massive fraud. Adding voters on to the list on the day of voting – another bone of contention over the last few days - finally involved 44,000 people on 17th January. Again observers say that this is not enough to question the results seriously.

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