Yanukovich wins tight Ukraine vote

KIEV: Ukraine has narrowly chosen the pro-Russia Viktor Yanukovich as its next president, results showed today, after elections that rejected the West-leaning policies of the Orange Revolution.

But with his margin of victory so far just over two per cent according to a count of almost all the votes, his challenger Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko was showing no sign of conceding a poll that was much closer than expected.

Yanukovich, the loser in the 2004 elections when the Orange uprising led to the courts finding his side committed mass vote rigging, declared victory and promised to overcome Ukraine’s economic crisis and divisions as president.

Based on a count from 95.8 per cent of polling stations, Yanukovich 48.28 per cent of the vote while Tymoshenko — a veteran of the Orange Revolution and champion of EU integration — had 46.11 per cent.

Another 4.4 per cent of ballots were cast “against all” in Sunday’s run-off

poll, in a sign of the disillusionment five years after the Orange Revolution, the central election commission said. Some 1.2 per cent of ballots were spoilt.

Volodymyr Shapoval, chairman of the election commission, said the final results would be announced in due course but declined to give any further comment. Turnout was robust at 69 per cent.

The Orange Revolution swept Ukraine’s old order from power and created hopes of a new beginning in the strategically-located state of 46 million people wedged between Russia and the European Union.

But the dreams crumbled amid political infighting and a dire economic crisis.

The results pointed to a stunning comeback for Yanukovich, who had been poised to grab the presidency in 2004 before the Orange uprising swept him aside and brought pro-Western President Viktor Yushchenko to power.

In a victory speech late Sunday, Yanukovich said the election had opened a “new page” in Ukraine’s history and said he would do everything to make sure all Ukrainians felt “comfortable and safe”. Ukraine is split between a Russian-speaking east, which is Yanukovich’s stronghold, and the more nationalist Ukrainian-speaking west that backed Tymoshenko.

Tymoshenko, who had repeatedly accused the Yanukovich camp of plotting to rig the vote, did

not concede defeat as she appeared in front of reporters in an eye-catching cream dress and trademark golden hair braid.

“So long as the last

count is not made, it is impossible to talk about any kind of results,” she said, adding that her backers were carrying out a “parallel count” to the official tally.