Election winner Yanukovich urges Tymoshenko to quit
Ukraine's opposition leader Viktor Yanukovich (pictured) has called on Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko to resign, warning that her refusal to concede defeat in last week's presidential run-off could plunge the country back into crisis.
REUTERS - Ukrainian opposition leader Viktor Yanukovich called on defeated rival Yulia Tymoshenko to resign as prime minister on Wednesday, turning up the pressure even as her camp contested the result of Sunday’s presidential election.
Setting out his programme, Yanukovich said that while relations with Russia and countries of the former Soviet Union would be his priority, Ukraine needed help “from West and East” to stabilise its economy and restructure its debt.
Bond yields jumped sharply after Yanukovich’s statement on debt, indicating a negative sentiment on Ukraine, as investors were concerned he meant to restructure sovereign Eurobonds.
Analysts said it was not likely he had called for a restructuring of sovereign debt—which would have amounted to default.
“I officially turn to the prime minister and call on her to resign and cross to the opposition,” Yanukovich, 59, said in his first policy statement since the election.
“The country does not need another political crisis. The nation has spoken for a change in power and the prime minister should take the right decision and enter opposition.”
The charismatic Tymoshenko has not been seen publicly since election night on Sunday when she urged her regional representatives to check the vote-count carefully and “fight for every vote”.
Her supporters have forced a recount of the vote in some regions to prove what they allege is “cynical” fraud by the Yanukovich camp. This is denied by the Yanukovich side.
On Wednesday, Tymoshenko cancelled a weekly government meeting and travelled east to Zaporizhya to attend a funeral.
Some of her supporters have expressed doubts about the challenge she is mounting.
Some say she would be better off going into opposition and fighting Yanukovich from there, and privately say they are not clear on what her strategy is. Few people, beyond a very tight inner circle, had spoken to her since Sunday night, they said.
One of her lawmakers, Svyatoslav Oliynyk, predicted she would step down and cross over to the opposition.
LIONESS “ABOUT TO SPRING”
“How does one explain this silence? It is not the silence of lambs, more that of a lioness about to spring,” political analyst Volodomyr Fesenko was quoted as saying by Interfax-Ukraine news agency.
In his statement, Yanukovich said: “We need help from the West and the East in stabilising the economic situation and restructuring the financial obligations.”
He ordered a new government to “go to our creditors, our neighbours, economically developed countries with the aim of reaching agreements and direct help to solve the economic crisis”.
He did not say which obligations he meant. Some of the particularly difficult payments for Ukraine, which has been battered by the economic crisis, have been sovereign and quasi-sovereign Eurobonds, domestic T-bills and payments for Russian gas.
He made no direct reference to the International Monetary Fund, which suspended a $16.4 billion bailout programme at the end of last year but whose aid had been vital in propping up the state’s finances in 2009.
Yanukovich’s comments on ties with Russia and the CIS appeared to confirm he would tilt Ukraine policy back towards its old imperialist master after the deep chill under the pro-Western Viktor Yushchenko.
But he was careful to balance this with saying Ukraine would continue to pursue negotiations with the European Union on an association agreement.
The political confusion risks setting back a resumption of IMF lending which last year was crucial for the state finances.
Though tensions remained high, there was no sign of people taking to the streets in support of the fiery premier, co-architect of the Orange Revolution that overturned Yanukovich’s victory in a rigged election in 2004.
A key date is Feb. 17 when official results are to be declared and a president-elect will be named. Any proof of cheating assembled by the Tymoshenko camp has to go before a higher court in the few days following that date.
There is much at stake for the stylish 49-year-old, whose challenge to Yanukovich flies in the face of endorsements by the international community. The United States, Russia and international monitors have hailed the election as democratic.
Yanukovich’s camp has denied there is any legal basis for challenging the result and has ruled out any third round vote as happened in 2004. That vote resulted in defeat for Yanukovich at the hands of current President Viktor Yushchenko.
If Tymoshenko does not quit, a vote of no confidence in her can be expected in parliament, possibly this week.