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18 Jan, 2010 12:00

Ukraine divided, presidential run-off imminent

Ukraine has finished counting votes in its presidential election, and it is already clear that the widely predicted run-off will take place.

The figures put opposition leader Viktor Yanukovich on top with 35.32% of the vote. He is followed by Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko with 25.05%.

Incumbent President Viktor Yushchenko, the leader of the 2004 Orange Revolution, managed to secure just over 5%.

The run-off between the two leading candidates is scheduled for February 7.

On Sunday evening Yulia Timoshenko called on democratic forces to support her in the second round.

However, two presidential candidates, Sergey Tigipko and Arseny Yatsenyuk, who came in third and fourth place respectively, said they would support neither her not Yanukovich.

According to Adrian Pabst, a professor in politics at the University of Kent, the West expects Timoshenko to overcome the 10% deficit and win. Personally, however, Pabst is not sure. “I think it’s going to be a very close election, and I wouldn’t bet on any of the candidates,” he says.

Political analyst Taras Berezovets believes the main political conflict remains the same – that of a Ukraine that chooses a European path and a Ukraine that supports Russia.

And journalist Dmitry Babich says the poor results achieved by the incumbent president are a sign of the failure of his Russophobic policy.

Course of the election

There were 18 candidates taking part in the election. It was the country's first presidential vote since unprecedented street protests thrust Viktor Yushchenko, into office five years ago.

The 2004 Orange Revolution was sparked by what some claimed was a flawed election. This time around, to avoid any vote rigging, the authorities have printed special ballot papers with watermarks on them for the first time in the country’s history.

On election day international observers seemed satisfied.

“A real election is when on polling day you do not know who will win,” Matyas Eoersi, head of the European observation team, told RT.

“Election is a difficult thing because you have only one winner and everybody else is a loser,” explained the observer. “We expect all the losers to accept the election results.”

Political gatherings in the center of Kiev have been banned in order to avoid a repeat of the exceptional mass demonstrations which took place during the country’s 2004 presidential elections.

The streets of the capital have remained calm. The opposition Party of Regions was, however, worried about possible attempts to disrupt the country’s vote, as three planes from Georgia carrying over 400 men between the ages of 25 and 40 landed in Ukraine on Friday and Saturday, leaving security services trying to figure out why they came to Kiev. Georgia says they came as observers but the Ukrainian election commission has refused to certify them.

Read also – Ukrainian Presidential Election: Sworn Enemies To Fight Again