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18 Jan, 2010 14:07

ROAR: “Ukrainian president sets world record for losing voters”

ROAR: “Ukrainian president sets world record for losing voters”

Russian observers weigh chances of Viktor Yanukovch and Yulia Timoshenko taking other candidates’ votes in the Ukrainian presidential run-off.

In the second round, the two politicians will divide the votes of people who chose other candidates, historian Stanislav Tkachenko of St. Petersburg University says. “It seems that Timoshenko will take the votes of former National Bank head Sergey Tigipko, and people who voted for ex-parliament speaker Arseny Yatsenyuk may support Yanukovich,” he told 100TV channel. “However, it is still a riddle who will get President Viktor Yushchenko’s votes.

The results of the Ukrainian election will affect the fate of the post-Soviet space, Tkachenko believes. This election has attracted great attention because of the memories of the events of the Orange Revolution in 2004, he said.

The voting that took place on January 17 showed that the Orange Revolution has failed, the historian said. At the same time, it is still unclear who will win the election, he noted. Neither Yanukovich nor Timoshenko has a considerable advantage, he said.

Dmitry Ayatskov, former governor of Saratov Region, supports Yanukovich, but stresses that the leader of the Party of Regions “lacks decision.” “I still cannot understand how Yanukovich could make the third round possible during the previous election,” Ayatskov told Kommersant Vlast weekly. Yanukovich could have won in 2004, the former governor believes. “Now the main thing is that Yuchchenko will not be the president,” he added.

State Duma Deputy Gennady Gudkov, on the contrary, believes that Yanukovich is “a go-ahead fellow who is more consistent than others.” He may have denied the results of the previous election, but he did not become a populist and “showed respect for Ukrainian law,” the deputy said. As for Timoshenko, she has changed her positions more often, Gudkov told the weekly.

Vadim Gustov, Chairman of the Federation Council on the Affairs of the Commonwealth of the Independent States, told the same source “Yanukovich is more preferable for Russia.” However, the previous election showed that “he is not a very simple figure,” Gustov said. “Sometimes he also makes a curtsey to the West trying to get something.

Many analysts believe that Yanukovich “has already collected all his votes,” as commentator Mikhail Melnikov wrote in Argumenty i Fakty weekly. And Timoshenko may add to her “modest” percentage the votes of supporters of Yatsenyuk and Yushchenko, he said. Among smaller candidates only the leader of the Communist Party, Petro Simonenko, “will support Yanukovich,” the commentator said.

Nevertheless, Yanukovich is fighting desperately for every ‘Orange’ vote,” Melnikov said. “He has limited to minimum his pro-Russian rhetoric, forgotten about the intention to make Russian the second state language and is avoiding any harsh statements,” he added.

Yanukovich does not risk losing much, and even if he fails to win in the run-off, he will remain the leader of the opposition in parliament, Melnikov believes. “But Timoshenko, in case of defeat, will lose everything,” he said.

So, we are expecting another round of the sleaze war, more scandals, more agitators from neighboring countries,” Melnikov said. He also believes that Tigipko may decide the fate of the run-off despite the fact that the candidate himself has already said he will support neither Yanukovich nor Timoshenko in the run-off.

The situation resembles the 1996 presidential election in Russia when the country chose between the Communist Party’s leader Gennady Zyuganov and then-President Boris Yeltsin, the commentator said. General Aleksadr Lebed suddenly won the third place, and the main question of the run-off was who would get his votes. The general was appointed the Secretary of the Security Council and called on his voters to support Yeltsin, who managed to save his position.

This time in Ukraine the president has lost, and Yushchenko may have set a new world record, Argumenty i Fakty said. “No current head of state has ever collected so little votes as Viktor Yushchenko in 2010,” it added.

The epoch of the man who tried to build an “anti-Russian Ukraine” is ending, said Vyacheslav Nikonov, executive director of the Russian World foundation. “Regardless of who wins the election, it is evident that a new character of relations between Russia and Ukraine will emerge,” he told Actualcomment.ru website.

Observers stress that during the campaign Yushchenko sharply criticized Timoshenko, his former comrade in the Orange Revolution. The split on the camp of “the orange politicians” is partly responsible for the results of the first round where Yanukovich got almost 12% more votes than Timoshenko, believes Yevgenia Voyko of the Center for Political Conjuncture.

Because of this split it is difficult to name the clear favorite of the electorate, Voyko said. Supporters of Yushchenko and Yatsenyuk will most likely give their votes to Timoshenko, however this will depend much on the work of her team, the analyst stressed.

Part of Tigipko’s votes will go to Timoshenko, but many of his voters will also support Yanukovich “as a man from the Eastern part of the country,” she added.

Many analysts note that external influence during this election has been minimal. As for Moscow, its position is more flexible than in 2004 and Russia had “agreements with all favorites of the presidential campaign,” Vedomosti daily said.

However, the media said that some in Ukraine have seen a sign of external influence in the so-called “observers from Georgia.” Yanukovich and a number of other politicians described them as “officers of a Georgian special services police squad,” RBC daily said.

At the same time, analysts stress that there have not been serious irregularities during the voting. They believe the repetition of protests like those of 2004 is “unlikely.” However, the tents that had been prepared by some candidates may become useful after the run-off, RBC daily said. The frontrunners themselves are not interested in the protests, the paper said. But some “technical protest rallies” could not be ruled out, it added.

Nikonov of the Russian World believes that if the run-off brings a close result, Timoshenko may try to organize new street protests. But he added that if one can lead people to the streets in modern Ukraine, “it is impossible to keep them there.

Sergey Borisov, RT