‘WE HAVE LIVED THROUGH THE ORANGE NIGHTMARE TOGETHER’ –says Yanukovych winner of the Presidential poll first round

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Demonstration in Kiev in April 2007 against the Yushchenko government
Demonstration in Kiev in April 2007 against the Yushchenko government

THE Central Electoral Commission (CEC) with less than 10 per cent of ballots to be counted has declared that the leader of the Party of the Regions, and opponent of the ‘Orange Revolution’, Viktor Yanukovych remains at the top of the presidential poll.

The margin between him and Prime Minister Yuliya Tymoshenko is around 10 per cent.

Yanukovych now has 35.38 per cent. There is 24.96 per cent for Tymoshenko, one of the Orange revolution leaders, and Sergey Tigipko has 13.04 per cent.

Arseniy Yatsenyuk has 6.98 per cent while the main leader of the pro-Nato Orange movement Viktor Yushchenko only polled 5.48 per cent.

Communist Party leader Petro Symonenko and Parliament speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn, polled 3.54 and 2.33 per cent respectively.

According to the CEC head, the final result will not be very much different.

The turnout in the Ukrainian election was 66.67 per cent, according to data received by the CEC from 215 constituencies out of a total of 225. The information has been posted on the official CEC website.

Several thousand supporters of the opposition Party of the Regions gathered outside the building of the Central Electoral Commission in Kiev to hear the results.

They went there ‘to protect their choice’ in the January 17 presidential election.

The Obkom website said that around 3,000 Yanukovych supporters had gathered outside the Central Electoral Commission.

Volodymyr Shapoval, the chairman of the CEC, has said the January 17 presidential election in Ukraine is valid.

‘The January 17 presidential election in Ukraine is valid, and this is a proven fact that I don’t think anybody will deny,’ he told a Kiev press conference on Monday.

Shapoval said that the work on the election took place under fairly difficult conditions. ‘The work was made more difficult by the fact that there was an active accompaniment to the campaign, which was on the verge of pressure with elements of hysteria,’ he said, emphasising that this was his personal opinion.

Shapoval voiced the opinion that some of the problems were worked up artificially.

Shapoval added that he did not consider the rally by supporters of opposition leader Viktor Yanukovych outside the CEC building to be pressure, but denied that the CEC was in need of protection. ‘I personally don’t see any problem either psychological or organisational,’ he said.

The headquarters of the incumbent President Viktor Yushchenko has said that the first round of the Ukrainian presidential election was ‘fair and democratic’, the first deputy head of Yushchenko’s headquarters, Roman Bezsmertnyy, told a briefing.

‘The minor violations that were observed did not affect the result of the vote. The election is valid,’ he said.

Several organisations that monitored the vote have positively assessed the way the election proceeded.

Yanukovych now faces a run-off against Prime Minister Yuliya Tymoshenko.

Both candidates appear confident of victory – and the rout of Yushchenko raises Russian hopes for a rapprochement between the two countries.

Ukraine has voted and the first round election result shows that all thoughts of joining NATO or the EU will have to be binned.

Yanukovych’s defeat of both the Orange candidates is a victory for Ukrainian workers.

His tactic was to watch the former comrades in arms, Tymoshenko and Viktor Yushchenko, ‘the heroes of the Orange Revolution’, destroy each other.

‘We have lived through that Orange nightmare together,’ he told his supporters during the election campaign.

The winners of this first round, Yanukovych and Tymoshenko will both try to win the support of their defeated rivals in the time leading up to a February 7th run-off election.

These include, the ex-banker Sergey Tigipko, and Arseniy Yatsenyuk, the young hope of the orange camp and of course, the outgoing incumbent, Viktor Yushchenko, who was punished by the voters and only got 5 per cent.

A determined Tymoshenko announced immediately after the polls had closed that she would negotiate with all the democratic forces.

In the view of the independent member of parliament Taras Chornovil, Tymoshenko will try to get the west of the country to rally behind her.

Whether she will succeed is doubtful. Her former comrade Yushchenko harbours a deep grudge against her, accusing her of ‘betrayal, secret deals and putsches’, and flirting with Moscow.

Yanukovych is trying to make himself look like an attractive candidate in the west and centre of Ukraine.

He recently said in an interview that the Russian language did not necessarily have to be given the same status as Ukrainian. That demand from the Party of the Regions had previously always antagonised nationalist-minded voters in western Ukraine.

Tymoshenko, too, has been trying to break through the old boundaries. The current prime minister, who was born in the eastern Ukrainian city of Dnipropetrovsk, has been trying to present herself as the mother of the nation.

‘As long as I am prime minister, my family is Ukraine and the entire Ukrainian people,’ she said.

‘Everything that causes pain to our country’s people also causes pain to me.’

In recent weeks, she has given particular attention to the voters in the east. Here, in the Russian-speaking cities, which are dominated by mining and heavy industry, the Party of the Regions has until now succeeded in winning the communist vote.

The party enjoys support of 80 to 90 per cent in its strongholds, something that Tymoshenko now wants to try to challenge.

She has been tirelessly visiting factories and mines, posing with steelworkers and miners and promising assistance to entrepreneurs and plant managers – in the hope that workers in the crisis-hit firms would show their appreciation of the support.

Back in 2004, Tymoshenko was in league with the West.

Now she is calling for better relations with Russia. These days, members of her campaign team praise the ‘rich and varied Russian culture’ and stress that Yushchenko’s confrontational stance towards Moscow had been inadequate.

Under the auspices of the outgoing president, Ukraine had supplied heavy military equipment to Georgia, which fought a war with Russia in August 2008.

After the first round of voting, it is clear that Yanukovych is the favourite to be president of Ukraine.

However both candidates are now very sceptical regarding possible NATO membership for Ukraine and both want good relations with Russia.

The ruling Stalinist bureaucracy in Moscow considers that it will be the winner of the election and Washington be the loser.

However the shattering of the Orange counter-revolution is a barometer of the rising strength of the Ukrainian working class, and its rejection of any return to bankrupt, crisis-ridden capitalism.

The Ukrainian workers want to see the reconstitution of the USSR by revolutionary means, the restoration of rule by Soviets and the overthrow of the Stalinist bureaucracy.