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White House, Kremlin, EU hail Yanukovych’s Ukraine presidential election victory

Author: Clive Leviev-Sawyer Date: Fri, Feb 12 2010 3541 Views
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United States president Barack Obama, Russian president Dmitry Medvedev and European Council President Herman van Rompuy publicly congratulated Viktor Yanukovych on winning Ukraine’s presidential election, squashing any hopes prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko may have had of significant international support for her objections to the vote that led to her defeat at the hands of her rival.
 
The second round of Ukraine’s presidential elections on February 7 2010 resulted in a narrow victory for Yanukovych, widely described as having been the "pro-Russian" candidate and whose controversial victory in the 2004 presidential elections precipitated the Orange Revolution that propelled Tymoshenko, along with now-defeated president Viktor Yuschenko, to positions of power in Ukraine.
 
On February 11, the White House said that Obama had telephoned Yanukovych to congratulate him on his election victory.
 
"The United States looks forward to working with president-elect Yanukovych and continuing to strengthen our co-operation with Ukraine's government and its parliamentary leaders," a White House spokesperson said.
 
Russian news agency Itar-Tass reported a presidential press secretary as saying that Medvedev was "prepared to work with" Yanukovych and already had telephoned his congratulations.
 
Under Yuschenko, Ukraine and Russian became deeply estranged.
 
Van Rompuy said in a statement that he had conveyed "whole-hearted congratulations" to Yanukovych.
 
"The European Union and Ukraine enjoy close relations based on common values and strong mutual interests," Van Rompuy said.
 
"These include a shared commitment to promoting market reform, respect for the rule of law and the principles of democracy, in the interests of the long-term prosperity and security of the peoples of Ukraine and the EU.
 
"In this regard, I particularly welcome the fact that the elections were generally conducted in accordance with international standards," Van Rompuy said.
 
In recent years, the relationship between the EU and Ukraine had deepened significantly in particular through wide-ranging political dialogue and extensive co-operation over a comprehensive range of issues, he said.
 
"The ambitious Association Agreement currently being negotiated by the EU and Ukraine very much reflects this new dynamic. I trust that under your leadership our relationship will continue to thrive and that the negotiations on the new agreement can be completed as soon as possible," Van Rompuy said in his message to Yanukovych.
 
"Finally, I should like to take this opportunity to invite you to visit Brussels at the earliest opportunity," Van Rompuy said.

Aides to Tymoshenko said that she was planning a legal challenge to the February 7 presidential election results, the Voice of America reported.

"In any case, the new president will assume power with less than 50 per cent of the vote and amid deep public distrust toward governmental institutions," VOA said.

More than half of Ukraine's voters opposed Yanukovych. And about four per cent of ballots cast went to what was called "none of the above," meaning none of the candidates on the ballot.  

This and the country's constitutional structure will force compromise, says Oleh Soskin, Director of the Society Transformation Institute in Kyiv.

"The new president will need to reach agreements," Soskin said. "Ukraine's constitutional structure does not lend itself to dictatorship."

He says the prime minister retains the greatest executive authority.

And considerable power is shared with parliament.

Outgoing president Yuschenko failed, says Soskin, because he acted with little regard for other institutions of government.

Ukrainians too heap scorn on parliament, whose members have voted immunity from prosecution for themselves.

Analysts say they are elected through an undemocratic process that calls for presidential attention.

Courts are considered among the most corrupt institutions in Ukraine. 
Yuriy Yakymenko, at Kyiv's Razumkov Centre research institute, says judges are not independent of the president.

"The disease of any authority begins at the top," Yakymenko said. "If we see politicised appointment of judges, and if we see the judicial system is not independent of other branches of government, then these are the primary factors that open the possibility of illegal influence on judges."

The foreign ministry is controlled by the president, but he often faces domestic pressure to pursue specific policies.

Eastern Ukraine, for example, has pushed for closer economic and cultural ties with Russia. Yanukovych has promised to pursue such goals, VOA said.

Many in Western Ukraine oppose them, among them Dmytro Korchynsky, leader of the UNSO nationalist organisation.

"We expect Yanukovych to go back on his promises [of closer ties with Russia] but if he doesn't, this will lead to the mobilisation of nationalist elements in society," Korchynsky said.

Some analysts say the president may be urged by oligarchs not to follow through on pro-Russian campaign promises.

They point out that while Russia is investing in Ukraine, Ukrainian oligarchs are putting more of their money in Western Europe.

Yakymenko:  "If Russian capital penetrates Ukraine it can gradually assume commanding positions and undermine the position of Ukrainian oligarchs," he said. "Therefore, I do not think they will support policies of maximum openness for Russia and thus reorientation of Ukrainian [foreign policy] from West to East."

Ukraine's voters, Soskin says, are practiced at voting out politicians and parties they feel have betrayed them - first the Communists, then the Socialists and now Yushchenko.

He says the new president will have to side with the people to clean up the country's institutions if he wishes to dodge the people's wrath.
 
 

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