Tensions high as Ukrainians vote in run-off polls

Analysts see a narrow victory for Yanukovich but Tymoshenko has threatened to call for protests if she deems the vote unfair.

Tensions high as Ukrainians vote in run-off polls

Ukrainians voted on Sunday for a new president in a run-off which sees Yulia Tymoshenko, the prime minister, pitted against Viktor Yanukovich, the opposition leader.

Analysts see a narrow victory for Yanukovich but Tymoshenko has threatened to call for protests in a replay of the 2004 "Orange Revolution" if she deems the vote unfair.

A decisive outcome should reset the ex-Soviet republic's relations with Russia, which deteriorated under pro-Western President Viktor Yushchenko, and decide the speed of Ukraine's path into the European mainstream.

In the capital, which traditionally leans towards Tymoshenko, a sense of frustration and fatigue reigned.

"It would be terrible to vote for Tymoshenko. It would be shameful to vote for Yanukovich," said 27-year-old Natalya Zhuk. "Nothing in this country will change in the next five years."

Yanukovich is eyeing a remarkable comeback, adding to his support base those who are disappointed with the Orange leaders and suffering from a deep economic crisis.

"I am sure that the Ukrainian nation deserves a better life. That is why I have voted for good changes, for stability and for a strong Ukraine," Yanukovich said, smiling and looking relaxed, after casting his vote.

He won 10 percent more of the votes than Tymoshenko in the first round on Jan. 17.

In the east and south, people have faith in Yanukovich's consistency, his ability to do business with Russia and see him as a strong man shaped by a rough childhood. He has served twice as prime minister -- the same as Tymoshenko.

"We lost five years of our lives thanks to Yushchenko and Tymoshenko," said Oleg Nochvyn, a miner in his 50s.

"For five years they were promising us -- tomorrow will be better. Well I get up the next day and it's worse than the day before ... Under Viktor Fyodorovich we had everything -- economic growth, everything was getting better."

A tired-looking Tymoshenko cast her vote early in her home city of Dnipropetrovsk.

"I have just voted for a new Ukraine, a happy Ukraine, a rich, beautiful European state," she said. "I am sure only in such a state people will live happily, each person will find his place and I will serve this cause with all my soul and ability."

Yushchenko, her former ally in the Orange Revolution but with whom she has since exchanged bitter recriminations, was eliminated in the first round of voting.

"I think Ukraine will be ashamed of its choice. But that is also democracy," he said.

A result challenged in court will only prolong instability in the country of 46 million people. Both candidates say they want to integrate with Europe while improving ties with Moscow, though Tymoshenko is seen as more enthusiastic about the EU.

Voting ends at 8.00 p.m. (1800 GMT), and exit polls are due shortly after. The OSCE will present its findings on Monday.


Last Mod: 07 Şubat 2010, 14:57
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