Monday, November 01, 2004

Elections in Ukraine: results of the first round - commentary

Yesterday, I spent time hanging out with other Ukies at the office of a Ukrainian owned travel agency downtown and frantically reading various web sites and listening to the live broadcast by a radio station from the city of Sumy.

I didn't feel like posting anything because it was not immediately clear which direction the elections were going and I am sure my site is not the primary source of info for those interested in Ukrainian politics, to say the least :-).
However, by the Monday evening, 94% have been counted and posted at the Official web site of the Central Electoral Committee. The two leading candidates appear to be neck in neck. Yuschenko has got 39.15% of votes and Yanukovych 40.12%. There is a strong indication that the remaining 6% may erase even this miniscule lead.

Ok, what this all means?
My current mood about it the results is cautious optimism. It appears to me, Yanukovych was not prepared to go to the second round or at least without a sizeable lead over Yuschenko. How badly he wanted to win in the first round can be seen from the fact that he had used almost any imaginable trick possible to secure victory:
- raising pensions
- pro-Russian statements
- Putin's visit to Ukraine
- total dominance on TV
- fear and intimidation campaign waged on his behalf by various local 'bosses' (most common story - the director of a local factory urges his subordinates to vote for Yanukovych threatening that otherwise he would fire those wouldn't)

The use of administrative resource didn't bring him victory and I am not sure it will be so readily available to him. Perhaps, some local governors would switch sides or try to sabotage Yanukovych's orders now.

It would be harder for Yanukovych to avoid public (TV) debates with Yuschenko now, when there is just two of them left. But Yanukovych is not a public politician. His Ukrainian is pretty bad so is his Russian, save for the criminal slang. I am not sure he can do a good job.

The next round is scheduled on November 21.


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