Tymoshenko In Denial After Ukraine Defeat

KIEV, Ukraine -- Just what is Ukraine's charismatic Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko up to? She has yet to concede defeat to her bitter rival, Viktor Yanukovych, after Sunday's polls and her party has alleged substantial violations which it says put the outcome in doubt.

She was the heroine of the Orange Revolution, hailed as a model of peaceful democratic change but is refusing to recognise the results of elections lauded by the West as clean and fair.

Analysts said the prime minister's defiance was the predictable reaction of a politician with a steely ambition and who has little experience of coming second.

But in a political scene that remains deeply macho, she is also trying to prove to supporters that she remains a formidable force and persuade them to back her in waging future battles against Yanukovych.

"Tymoshenko is more of a revolutionary than a democrat," said Volodymr Fesenko, director of the Penta centre of political studies. She has "always shown bad habits. Like not being able to let go of power".

The prime minister certainly has one eye on the situation in Ukraine's parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, where she could make life very difficult for Yanukovych as his Regions Party has no majority.

However deputies from her Bloc Yulia Tymoshenko (BYuT) are already reported to be in talks to switch to the Regions Party after her loss and this could substantially weaken her hand.

But if Yanukovych finds it impossible to deal with the current Rada, he will have to dissolve parliament and call elections that would provide a great chance for Tymoshenko to launch an immediate comeback.

"For the moment, the most important thing for her is to be the person who fights Yanukovych in the eyes of the voters," said Fesenko.

Although her losing margin was just under 3.5 per cent and far less than predicted by opinion polls, the defeat was a shattering blow for Tymoshenko, a politician who has little experience of losing.

Throughout the campaign she had not countenanced the possibility of defeat and insisted there was no "plan B".

"It's a long time since Tymoshenko lost. She is in shock," said Kost Bondarenko, Ukrainian political analyst.

The popular news website Ukrainska Pravda compared Tymoshenko's never-say-die defiance to the sword-wielding Uma Thurman character of the Bride in Quentin Tarantino's 2003 film Kill Bill.

"In Europe, recognising the victory of the opponent is a sign of civilised behaviour. For Tymoshenko, legitimising Yanukovych would be a sign of weakness in the eyes of the voters," wrote Sergiy Leshchenko, a journalist.

The election has been one of sharp ironies.

It was none other than Yanukovych who was blamed for the vote-rigging in the last polls in 2004 that provoked the Orange Revolution and swept pro-Western politician Viktor Yushchenko to power.

But now it is Yanukovych who is calling on Tymoshenko to respect democracy by conceding after players like Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the European Union and the United States all praised the conduct of the elections.

"She is going to try and get on Yanukovych's nerves and prevent him from enjoying his victory," said Dmytro Vydrin, political analyst and a former advisor to Tymoshenko.

But challenging the results and creating a new political crisis is hardly likely to go down well with the European Union, where she has been such a favourite.

"Tymoshenko tells Brussels that Ukraine is a European country but at home she behaves like a Byzantine," Vydrin said.

"If the Russians have 'sovereign democracy' then the Ukrainians have a kind of carnival where spectacle is more appreciated than substance," he added.

Source: Telegraph UK