Ukraine 2010 – Runoff
The second round of the Ukrainian presidential election was held on February 7. The runoff opposed the top two candidates of the first round, former Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych and incumbent Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. As mentioned in earlier posts about Ukraine, both candidates represent a faction of the political debate which makes Ukraine one of the most electorally polarized countries in the world: the pro-Russians (Yanukovych) and the pro-Western/Ukrainian nationalists (Tymoshenko and defeated President Yuschenko). Here are the results of the runoff with 99.44% reporting.
Viktor Yanukovych (PR) 48.81%
Yulia Tymoshenko (BYuT) 45.61%
Against all 4.37%
Yanukovych’s victory is not much of a surprise following the results of the first round, but neither is the narrow margin which reflects well the nature of Ukrainian politics. Ukraine is one of the most politically polarized countries in the world, and the map of the runoff reflects that fact very well – more so than the map of the first round. The best example of this polarization is that there are no so-called ‘swing oblasts’ which have a good chance of voting for either side. Only one oblast switched from the first round, it was Zakarpat’ska, which narrowly voted for Yanukovych in the first round. But even in Zakarpat’ska, it’s more the result of a consolidation of the Orange vote behind Tymoshenko, so the switch in allegiances there was predictable.
Tymoshenko managed to win Yuschenko and Yatsenyuk’s first round vote, while Tigipko voters split roughly equally (44-43) between both candidates. Obviously, most Symonenko voters backed Yanukovych in the runoff. The momentum and power was on Yanukovych’s side throughout the campaign for the runoff.
I would be cautious before qualifying Yanukovych’s victory as a large victory for Moscow and a rebuke of more pro-Western policies by Ukrainians. The contentious issue hasn’t subsided, and polarization is still heavy. At the same time, Yanukovych didn’t win because of his personal popularity or even his regionalist policies, but much more because he represents a vote for stability. The vote was a clear rebuke of the instability, feuding and failed policies of the pro-Western government. Yanukovych’s election will signal only a minor change in relations with Russia, probably a friendlier and less confrontational approach in dealings surrounding natural gas with Moscow. Tymoshenko had already toned down the pro-Western rhetoric a bit, and Yuschenko’s government did not usher in major changes in regional ge0-politics except a confrontational attitude vis-a-vis Moscow, an attitude which was clearly rebuked by voters.
Yanukovych said it before the election, and it’s quite obvious to any observers, he won’t keep Tymoshenko’s pro-Orange government in place. He has two options before him: appoint a government which supports him using the current Parliament or call snap elections, probably in March. The most realistic outcome is probably a snap election, because Yanukovych would need to garner a majority within the current Parliament to form a government, and this requires one of the current government parties – probably the Lytvyn Bloc – from switching allegiances.