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Ukrainian elections go down to the wire

By Ernest Petrosyan
Monday, February 8
The second round of the Presidential elections in Ukraine was held yesterday. The Ukraine's 36.5 million electors chose between pro-Russian opposition candidate Viktor Yanukovich, who gained 35.32% of the votes in the first round, and acting Prime Minister and key figure of the 2004 Orange Revolution Yulia Tymoshenko, who gained 25.05% of the first round votes. Exit polls were expected to identify the winner just after the close of poll.

The Ukraine is divided between the western part, where the majority support Tymoshenko and her pro-Western programme, and the eastern part where the majority support pro-Russian Yanukovich. Turnout was not likely to be as high as in the first round. In Western Ukraine reports suggested it was likely to be 38%, although it was likely to be 50% in the east.

Ukraine's outgoing President Viktor Youshchenko, who was eliminated in the first round with 6% of the vote, also cast his second round ballot. “I think Ukrainians will be ashamed of their choice, but this is democracy," he said after voting at a polling station in central Kiev. Youshchenko was accompanied by his wife Yekaterina and five children.

Yulia Tymoshenko also voted with her family in her native town of Dnepropetrovsk. “I voted for the future of this beautiful European state,” declared Tymoshenko.

Viktor Yanukovich said he was voting for positive change in Ukraine. “I am confident that the Ukrainian people deserve a better life, therefore I voted for positive change, stability and a strong Ukraine,” he told journalists. He added that Ukraine has had enough elections, and it is time to overcome the crisis.

Asked by a Georgian journalist about the future of relations between these two countries Yanukovich said that relations between Ukraine and Georgia will be balanced and domestic policy pragmatic.

Other candidates eliminated in the first round also cast their votes. Sergey Tigipko, who has a predetermined position in the Government, said that is ready to work with even the candidate he did not vote for. He added that the positions of Prime Minister, Parliament and President should be equal.

Georgian political analyst Ramaz Sakvarelidze said that Yanukovich’s statement on relations with Georgia is quite equivocal. “If Yanukovich wins the elections Georgian-Ukraine bilateral relations will not be as tight as they used to be, since Yanukovich will not go against Russian interests," he said. Fellow political analyst and member of the Republican Party Paata Zakareishvili told The Messenger that the balanced policy suggested by Yanukovich will definitely not contradict Russian interests, and relations with Georgia will not be as strong as at present because of Yanukovich’s pro-Russian orientation, but his policy is unlikely to be anti-Georgian.