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Second round of Ukrainian elections and Georgian observers

By Messenger Staff
Wednesday, January 20
The results of the January 17 Presidential elections in Ukraine were predictable. Almost all analysts predicted that there would be a second round and indeed there will be, on February 7, between Viktor Yanukovich and Yulia Tymoshenko.

The elections went quite smoothly, almost no violations were reported. The big scandal, however, was the refusal of the Ukrainian Central Election Committee to register the 2,000 observers sent by Georgia.

The West has already accepted that whoever comes to power their number one priority will be the regulation of relations with Russia. It is likely that drawing closer to Moscow will mean distancing Ukraine from the West. It is almost predestined that Ukraine joining NATO will be taken off the agenda. The West hopes that there will be no civil confrontation in Ukraine, which might be initiated by Russia if Tymoshenko wins and Yanukovich challenges her victory, as Moscow would have the most to gain from it.

Tbilisi is very much interested in the results of the Ukrainian elections. Five years ago the Rose Revolution administration supported the Orange Revolution and its leader Yushchenko, who it considered Georgia’s ideological brother. But now its leader Yushchenko has not even been able to qualify for the second round, collecting less than 10% of the vote. Some speculate that the same result would have been seen in Georgia if the 2008 elections were not manipulated by the authorities.

Georgia cannot be indifferent to these elections, and Tbilisi is pinning its hopes on Tymoshenko, as Yanukovich is very pro-Russian while Tymoshenko has an orange past. Yanukovich stated in his election campaign that if he becomes President he will recognise Abkhazia and South Ossetia, though this would be a stupid step given Ukraine's own territorial integrity issues (Crimea in particular).

Georgia sent more than 2,000 observers to the first round of the elections, a huge number. In the pro-Russian city of Donetsk in particular they identified numerous minor violations of election procedures. There has also been great pressure from the local administration on the press. If Tymoshenko wins the efforts of the Georgian observers will be appreciated, but if she loses anti-Georgian sentiments will be fanned.

The ultimate outcome is pretty unclear. Yanukovich was top of the poll in the first round but that does not automatically mean that he will emerge victorious. Much depends on where the votes for the candidates who did not qualify for the second round go this time. Much also depends on the personal contacts of Yanukovich and Tymoshenko, what their promises are and what their guarantees that they will fulfill these promises will be. Ukraine is approaching a decisive point in its history.