Books on Ukraine
Update No: 349 - (20/01/10)
A run-off for Ukraine
Sometimes a whole nation is in suspense. That is the state of Ukraine today.
Ukrainian opposition leader Viktor Yanukovych and Premier Yulia Tymoshenko, who
topped the first-round presidential election in early January, are prepared to
face each other in a run-off vote on February 7, after it became clear that
incumbent Viktor Yushchenko had been eliminated.
Yanukovych, aged 59, won around 31% of the vote, not enough for an outright
victory. Timoshenko, who had around 27%, expects to meet Yanukovych in the
February 7th second round. Incumbent Viktor Yushchenko predictably lost his bid
for re-election with 6%.
The end of a strange dream?
The election, held five years after Yushchenko beat Moscow- backed Yanukovych to
office during the Orange Revolution, ends his dream, at any rate soon, of
leading Ukraine into the European Union and the NATO. Still, the legacy of the
Orange Revolution may trip up Yanukovych again as voters turn to Tymoshenko, who
stood with Yushchenko during the massive street demonstrations.
“Tymoshenko has the chance to win the runoff as people who supported candidates
linked to the Orange Revolution such as incumbent Viktor Yushchenko are
potential voters for her,” said Yuriy Yakymenko, an analyst at Kiev-based
Razumkov Center for Economic and Political Studies.
Predictions and portents
The rivalry between Yushchenko and Tymoshenko resulted in delayed disbursement
of $3.9 billion from the IMF until after the elections, thus boosting the
importance of renewed relations with the Fund as soon as possible. This could
happen more quickly if Tymoshenko wins.
A victory by Yulia Tymoshenko in the run-off would mean a faster resumption of
the IMF's austerity programme. But whoever comes out ahead will be forced to
stick to the plan because of the country's heavy debts and the steep economic
contraction of 2009.
A win by Viktor Yanukovych, meanwhile, is more likely to lead to a weaker
currency. A strong showing for Yanukovych, who has the support of the metals
exporters that represent much of the country's economy, could bring about a
weaker Ukrainian hryvnia that would increase the miners' and steelmakers' profit
For her part, Tymoshenko in the past has supported a strong currency. Both are
promising reforms long delayed by political divisions as well as renewed
relations with the IMF, which were cut off when Tymoshenko's former ally, the
president, agreed to public expenditure cuts.