Ukraine votes in presidential showdown

KIEV: Ukrainians today were choosing between two sworn rivals in a tight presidential election run-off after a bruising campaign that sparked warnings of a repeat of the 2004 Orange Revolution protests.

The dour pro-Russia opposition leader Viktor Yanukovich has the edge on his more charismatic challenger, the pragmatic Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, after winning January’s first-round poll by a 10 per cent margin. But the identity of the fourth post-Soviet president in this strategic country situated between the European Union and Russia remains uncertain as opinion polls have been banned since the first round. Tymoshenko will be hoping to capitalise

on her opponent’s clumsy verbal gaffes in the campaign while the Yanukovich

camp has sought to paint the prime minister as an over-excitable opportunist.

Amid a charged atmosphere, both have exchanged accusations of seeking to rig the vote and analysts warn the losing side is likely to take grievances to the courts or even the streets if the margin of victory is narrow.

In 2004, tens of thousands of people protested against election results that had initially handed victory to Yanukovich, unleashing the Orange Revolution that swept pro-Western President Viktor Yushchenko to power.

“A new revolution is highly unlikely but we have to await confrontations in the court, in parliament and in the street,” said Volodymyr Fesenko, director of the Penta centre for political studies.