Yanukovich claims Ukraine's poll win, turnout high

Yanukovich claimed a victory in a presidential election on Monday, but Yulia Tymoshenko refused to concede.

Yanukovich claims Ukraine's poll win, turnout high

Ukraine's opposition leader Viktor Yanukovich claimed a victory in a presidential election on Monday, but Yulia Tymoshenko refused to concede.

With just over 90 percent of votes counted early on Monday, election officials gave Yanukovich 48.49 percent and Prime Minister Tymoshenko 45.86 percent, a margin of 2.63 percentage points.

Both candidates pledged integration with Europe while improving ties with Moscow, but Tymoshenko is seen as more pro-Western. Yanukovich is unlikely to pursue membership of NATO, an 'Orange' goal that infuriated neighbouring Russia.

Yanukovich, 59, a beefy ex-mechanic who wants better ties with Moscow, called on Tymoshenko, 49, to resign as prime minister. But Tymoshenko's team said they had counted 85 percent of votes and she was leading by 0.8 percent.

Each side accused the other of fraud, but Tymoshenko stopped short of repeating a threat she made last week to call people out onto the streets if she believed the election was unfair.

"I think that Yulia Tymoshenko should prepare to resign. She understands that well," Yanukovich said in a television interview. Exit polls put him three to four points ahead.

Tymoshenko was the co-architect of the 2004 revolution with pro-Western President Viktor Yushchenko, but their relationship quickly soured.

Looking stern in front of reporters, the fiery former gas tycoon urged her team to "fight for every result, every document, every vote". The tone was moderate and analysts said they doubted Tymoshenko could stage a repeat of 2004.

High turnout

Tymoshenko's camp, alleging fraud, offered a "parallel count" late on Sunday that saw her edging out her rival. The margin in the official results made it likely that Tymoshenko would mount a legal challenge, prolonging the uncertainty.

A Yanukovich victory could see the country of 46 million people shift back towards former Soviet master Russia after five years of infighting and a sliding economy turned the euphoria of the Orange revolution into frustration and disappointment.

The election commission projected the turnout among Ukraine's 37 million voters at about 70 per cent, 3.2 percentage points higher than the January 17 first-round vote in which 18 candidates competed.

Sunday's vote, conducted in freezing temperatures and snow, appeared to reflect widespread disillusion among Ukrainians that the Orange Revolution failed to deliver prosperity or stability.

Yushchenko came a humiliating fifth in the first round of the election in January.

Voters seemed to feel Yanukovich, a former premier who stressed the fight against poverty, had the best chance of restoring order. "We lost five years of our lives thanks to Yushchenko and Tymoshenko," said Oleg Nochvyn, a miner in his 50s in the eastern region of Donetsk.

"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 (Yanukovich) we had everything -- economic growth, everything was getting better."

Regardless of the outcome, squabbling was set to continue, reflecting the country's broader divisions. Ukraine is divided almost equally between a Russian-leaning east and south and a Western-friendly centre and west.

With a Yanukovich victory, Tymoshenko can expect to be ousted as premier by a vote of no confidence in parliament. Yanukovich will then try to form a new coalition to get his own ally into the role, or call a snap parliamentary election.



Agencies

Last Mod: 08 Şubat 2010, 12:27
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