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Europe

Opposition leader Yanukovich set for political comeback

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2010-02-08

Five years after he was routed by the Orange Revolution, Ukraine’s Viktor Yanukovich looked set to win Sunday’s presidential elections, according to election officials. But his rival, Yulia Tymoshenko, has still to concede defeat.

Pro-Russian candidate Viktor Yanukovich held a slim lead on Monday in the race to become Ukraine's next president over pro-Western Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, a one-time leader of the country’s reformist Orange Revolution.

With 98.4 percent of votes counted, Yanukovich had a 2.8 percentage lead over Tymoshenko. Turnout for Sunday’s vote was estimated at 69 percent. 

Earlier Monday, Yanukovich’s Regions Party had proclaimed itself the winner, but Tymoshenko cautioned her arch rival against victory declarations before the final results were released.

While Tymoshenko is widely expected to challenge the result, the fiery Ukranian politician was uncharacteristically quiet on Monday, postponing a planned news conference until Tuesday.

International monitors have urged Tymoshenko to concede defeat for the sake of political stability in the economically battered country. In a statement released Monday observers from the OSCE (Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe) said Sunday’s vote was “an impressive display of democratic elections”.

The vote marks a dramatic turnaround for both the country and for Yanukovich, 59, who had been set to take the presidency once before in 2004. But after he was declared the winner of a widely disputed vote, thousands took to the streets in protest at election fraud -- and Kremlin influence in Ukrainian politics -- in a movement that eventually became the Orange Revolution and propelled Viktor Yushchenko, a one-time Tymoshenko ally, to the presidency. 

But this time, Yushchenko didn’t even make it past the Jan. 17 first round to Sunday’s run-off. It was a stunning rebuke of the revolution’s leaders, who many Ukrainians feel were consumed by political infighting even as the country sank deeper into economic crisis. A bitter rivalry between Tymoshenko and Yushchenko for the soul of the reform movement became legendary, dominating the nation’s headlines and fuelling popular discontent. 
 
Results likely to be challenged
 
Having been accused of vote-rigging once before, Yanukovich has yet to prove his democratic credentials. “He never admitted the fraud in the 2004 election, even though it was very widely proven,” says FRANCE 24’s Gulliver Cragg, reporting from Kiev.
 
Cragg notes that the Yanukovich camp is already guilty of one breach of the rules this time around, for failing to remove their election posters on Friday, as campaign guidelines stipulate, before voters began heading to the polls on Sunday

END OF ORANGE REVOLUTION?

And Tymoshenko does not appear ready to go down without a fight. “It seems highly likely that Yulia Tymoshenko’s party will challenge the results,” Cragg says.

In televised comments on Sunday, Tymoshenko, 49, stopped short of her earlier calls for supporters to take to the streets to protest the vote fraud her camp believes Yanukovich guilty of. Her spokesman said Sunday that the party was instead looking at the legal means with which to challenge the result.

 

Date created : 2010-02-08

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