[QODLink]
Europe
Yanukovych 'wins Ukraine election'
Opposition leader takes unassailable lead over current premier in presidential runoff.
Last Modified: 09 Feb 2010 09:12 GMT

Tymoshenko has threatened to call her supporters onto the streets if evidence of fraud is found [AFP]

Viktor Yanukovych, Ukraine's pro-Russian opposition leader, has claimed a slender win in presidential elections but Yulia Tymoshenko, his bitter rival in Sunday's runoff for the post, has refused to concede defeat.

Central Election Commission results showed that with just 1.58 per cent of the vote yet to be counted, Yanukovich was 2.79 percentage points ahead of Tymoshenko, the country's prime minister, who can no longer overtake him.

The commission said on its website on Monday that Yanukovich gained 48.60 per cent of the vote and Tymoshenko 45.81 per cent, with 98.42 per cent of the vote counted.

Tymoshenko, who had threatened to call her supporters onto the streets if evidence of fraud was found, has put off until Tuesday a news conference scheduled for Monday.

'Democratic' election

Earlier during the day, international election monitors hailed the election as an "impressive" display of democracy and urged the nation's political leaders to ensure a peaceful transition of power.

in depth

 

  Profile: Yulia Tymoshenko
  Profile: Viktor Yanukovych
  Blog: Crowds for hire
  Video: Ukraine on brink of new era

"Yesterday's vote was an impressive display of democratic elections. For everyone in Ukraine, this election was a victory," the observers, headed by the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), said in a statement.

"It is now time for the country's political leaders to listen to the people's verdict and make sure that the transition of power is peaceful and constructive."

The OSCE verdict appeared to be tantamount to a call by the international community for Tymoshenko, to accept the fight was over.

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.

Remarkable comeback

The result marks a remarkable comeback by Yanukovych, a 59-year-old former prime minister, who was disgraced in 2004 by the "Orange Revolution" mass street protests which Tymoshenko co-led.

Yanukovych's election that year, in a poll deemed to have been rigged, was quashed by a court and he lost a third round of voting to Viktor Yushchenko, the other leader of the Orange Revolution and Ukraine's outgoing president.

Neave Barker, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Kiev, the Ukrainian capital, said Yanukovych had learnt a lot in the last five years.

"Back then it was very much felt that he alienated voters in the west of the country - voters who looked towards the European Union for a future for the country - by mentioning the need to maintain strong ties with Russia," Barker said.

"This time round he has refused to speak at all about anything that may be vaguely controversial.

"In the words of one analyst, he's played a secure campaigning game plan, making sure he doesn't put anyone off."

Russia question

Yanukovych is characterised as being closer to Russia than Tymoshenko [AFP]
The close result reflects broader divisions in the former Soviet republic of 46 million people, divided almost equally between a Russian-leaning east and south and a Western-friendly centre and west.

Both candidates have said they want to integrate with Europe while improving ties with Moscow, although Tymoshenko is seen as more enthusiastic about the European Union and Yanukovych is characterised as being closer to Russia.

The election was closely watched in Russia, Ukraine's former Soviet master, but state-controlled media avoided taking sides.

Apparently keen to avoid repeating Russia's 2004 gaffe of prematurely congratulating Yanukovych, there has been no official comment from the Kremlin.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
Topics in this article
People
Country
City
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
More than one-quarter of Gaza's population has been displaced, causing a humanitarian crisis.
Ministers and MPs caught on camera sleeping through important speeches have sparked criticism that they are not working.
Muslim charities claim discrimination after major UK banks began closing their accounts.
Italy struggles to deal with growing flood of migrants willing to risk their lives to reach the nearest European shores.
Featured
Thousands of Houthi supporters have called for the fall of Yemen's government. But what do the Houthis really want?
New ration reductions and movement restrictions have refugees from Myanmar anxious about their future in Thailand.
US lawyers say poor translations of election materials disenfranchise Native voters.
US drones in Pakistan have killed thousands since 2004. How have leaders defended or decried these deadly planes?
Residents count the cost of violence after black American teenager shot dead by white Missouri police officer.
join our mailing list