Ukraine's Prime Minister Tymoshenko Won't Concede Election

Defeated candidate Yulia Tymoshenko to demand recount.

MOSCOW, Feb. 9, 2010 -- Official tallies from Ukraine's presidential election show Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko losing by over 3 percent. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has congratulated her opponent, and the United States has hailed the election as another step in democratizing Ukraine.

But Tymoshenko has not been heard from in two days and has privately vowed to fight the results.

True to her fighting nature, Tymoshenko told party officials that she will "never recognize the legitimacy of [Viktor] Yanukovich's victory," according to the Ukrainskaya Pravda website.

She has told lawyers to prepare to contest the results and floated the idea of a third round of voting, the report added.

"Yesterday we made the decision to contest results in separate electoral districts, and if the courts back us up, we will call the overall runoff results into question," Elena Shusti, deputy leader of Tymoshenko's bloc, said today.

Independent monitoring bodies declared the elections "an impressive display of democracy," saying there was no widespread fraud as had been feared in the weeks leading up to the Feb. 7 runoff.

"It is now time for the country's political leaders to listen to the people's verdict and make sure that the transition of power is peaceful and constructive," Joao Soares of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said Monday.

The winner, Viktor Yanukovich, called on Tymoshenko to concede and resign her post as Prime Minister Sunday night as exit polls indicated a victory for the former mechanic and pro-Kremlin candidate.

Tymoshenko has not asked her supporters to go into the streets as she threatened during the campaign and as hundreds of thousands did during the 2004 elections in what would become known as the Orange Revolution. Thousands of blue-clad Yanukovich voters rallied Monday and today in front of the Central Election Commission celebrating their candidate's victory, with more on their way to the Ukrainian capital Kiev.

A Yanukovich presidency would be a remarkable comeback for the former prime minister whose victory in the 2004 election was overturned after the courts ruled it was rigged. The pro-western Viktor Yushchenko, victim of a poisoning that left a large scar on his face, eventually won a 2004 revote against Yanukovich, thanks in part to the support of Tymoshenko who whipped crowds into a frenzy whenever she took the stage. The pair ushered in an era of Europe-leaning policies, turning away from Russia.

Five years later, the former Orange allies are bitter rivals. President Yushchenko refused to endorse Tymoshenko, instead encouraging his base to not vote for either candidate. The more than one million voters that went to the polls and didn't cast a ballot for either may very well have cost Tymoshenko the election.

Analysts say that years of political infighting, an economy in tatters and broken promises destroyed Yushchenko's chance of re-election, infecting Ukrainian voters with bitterness.

"People are overwhelmingly disgusted with their politicians," says Dr. Sam Charap, an analyst at the Center for American Progress. "The Ukrainian experience of democracy has been bickering between their politicians and gridlock when it comes to getting anything done. They're really fed up."

A Country Divided

The electoral map and results show a country deeply polarized: Tymoshenko's Orange supporters in central Ukraine and to the west, with Yanukovich's strongholds in the south and east. Despite a seemingly unenthusiastic electorate, turnout was almost 70 percent.

"There will be no third round," said Mykola Azarov,a senior official in Yanukovich's Party of Regions. "[The Tymoshenko supporters] are dragging us into an unnecessary war."

If Tymoshenko does go ahead with legal action, all but the most ardent loyalists will be against her. Members of her own party are reportedly urging her to accept defeat, lest Yanukovich create a large enough parliamentary coalition to force her out of office.