Ukraine’s Tymoshenko Urged to Concede
With almost all the ballots counted, opposition leader Viktor Yanukovich is on course to become Ukraine’s next president.
He has a slender lead over bitter rival, Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko.
Results from Yanukovich’s strongholds in the south and east are expected to give him an unassailable lead.
Within hours of the polls closing Yanukovich was claiming victory.
Thanking his supporters, he promised not to let down the Ukrainian people.
[Viktor Yanukovich, Presidential Candidate]:
„People wanted changes and I think that this election was the first step towards unification of the country.“
It caps a remarkable comeback for a man portrayed as Moscow’s stooge after his abortive 2004 victory, which saw him ousted in a populist pro-Western uprising dubbed the Orange Revolution.
But the Ukrainian PM and heroine of the revolution is signaling that she’s ready to fight on.
The Tymoshenko camp is crying foul, saying it has evidence of vote-rigging.
Many analysts predict the loser will protest the results in court.
Ukrainians are anxious that the dispute could spill onto the streets after Tymoshenko said last week that she would summon her supporters onto the streets if she deemed the vote was rigged.
Among these Yanukovich supporters, braving freezing conditions to gather in Kiev for a victory celebration, one man shared his fears.
„I think there will be a protest against the results, because Yulia Tymoshenko wants to be the leader and she will do anything to get it.“
And there are those ready to respond to the call should it come.
„If a lot of people would go out and protest, I would too.“
But analysts say such a move would be disastrous, that any challenge to the poll result would further damage confidence in a country plagued by years of political bickering and economic crisis.