Nick Paton Walsh in Kiev
Monday December 27, 2004
After three elections in as many months, hopes were raised yesterday that a substantial victory for opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko may bring an end to turmoil in Ukraine. But though both sides signed an electoral and political deal before yesterday's run-off vote, analysts indicate there may be problems ahead.
Prime minister Viktor Yanukovich's team are preparing court challenges to any results announced that may benefit Mr Yushchenko. While both parties agreed new electoral rules in their deal, the constitutional court's decision on Saturday that prevented some disabled people from voting has added weight to any challenge by Mr Yanukovich, who claims many supporters among pensioners.
Mr Yushchenko has hinted that if he comes to power he may reverse constitutional amendments in the deal that weaken the president's role.
Rhetoric from the industrial east calling for greater autonomy in the event of a Yushchenko victory has so far proven hollow; the eastern city of Donetsk cancelled a referendum scheduled for January 9. The industrial monopolies that rule the area will be torn between the economic sanctions and hardship that would follow breaking away, and tax payments expected from them under any Yushchenko administration.
Mr Yushchenko has pledged that his first state visit as president will be to Moscow. Yet the intense humiliation that Vladimir Putin has suffered by volubly backing Mr Yanukovich may lead to frosty relations as the Russian president refuses to accept defeat in Ukraine.