With Orange Revolution In Mind, Ukrainians Vote

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukrainians voted for president on Sunday in an election that is shaping up as a public verdict on the impact of the 2004 Orange Revolution, which put this country at the forefront of the struggle for influence in the former Soviet Union.

Ukrainians voted for president in Dnipropetrovsk on Sunday.

With Ukraine’s economy suffering and its government paralyzed by squabbling, many people appeared to be casting ballots with little of the enthusiasm that they had five years ago. Both candidates — Prime Minister Yulia V. Tymoshenko and the opposition head, Viktor F. Yanukovich — are familiar figures.

Ms. Tymoshenko, a charismatic leader of the Orange forces, seemed to be trailing in opinion polls because Ukrainians hold her more responsible for the failures of recent years. Mr. Yanukovich, who was the Orange loser and once had a reputation as a Kremlin sidekick, has sought to make her tenure in the government a decisive issue.

If the results are very close, Ukraine could be plunged into the same turmoil that it experienced five years ago. Both candidates would be expected to try to pursue their cases before election regulators and the courts. But analysts said Ukrainians are so disillusioned that it is unlikely that there will be mass protests like those during the Orange Revolution.

Early reports suggested that turnout was relatively low in western Ukraine, which could present a problem for Ms. Tymoshenko, whose base is there. The country has a geographic divide, with Ukrainian speakers in the west and Russian speakers in the east. Mr. Yanukovich is from the east, and turnout was said to be strong there.

In interviews in Kiev, the capital, which is in the center, many voters said on Sunday that they were disappointed in the Orange Revolution because politicians had not bolstered the economy, reduced corruption and improved social services.

Even so, in interviews at a polling place at School No. 100, some said they would support Ms. Tymoshenko. They said Mr. Yanukovich was not intelligent and would come under the sway of Ukrainian oligarchs and the Kremlin.

Others said Ms. Tymoshenko had had her chance and had proven herself to be a poor manager.

Mikhail Bondarenko, 39, a gas industry executive, who voted for Ms. Tymoshenko, said he feared that Mr. Yanukovich would hinder Ukraine’s development.

“Yulia will have more progressive politics,” Mr. Bondarenko said. “For me personally, Yanukovich personifies the Soviet times, the so-called Red factory boss.”

Another business executive, Tatyana Zavgorodnaya, 40, agreed.

“Yanukovich is a step backward — a year back, 5 years back, 10 years back,” she said. “Better to stand in place than to take such a step backward.”

Others said they were fed up with Ms. Tymoshenko.

“She has disgraced herself with her dirty politics,” said Sergey Sizov, 70.

Irina Chetvertnova and her husband, Ivan, who are both doctors, said they had backed Ms. Tymoshenko during the Orange Revolution, but could no longer do so.

“She is that psychological type of person who wants to fight and not do anything else,” said Irina Chetvertnova, 45. “A government should work and not just seek out enemies.”

Her husband, 47, said, “She talks a lot and does nothing. And then blames everyone else. And they have had their five years.”

The Orange Revolution broke out after Mr. Yanukovich won the presidential election in late 2004. His victory was overturned in the courts when demonstrators accused his campaign of vote fraud, and in the new round, Viktor A. Yushchenko, an Orange leader, came out ahead.

The events reflected a schism in Ukraine. On one side were those who aligned themselves with the West and hoped to create a European-style government, rejecting the authoritarian model in many post-Soviet countries. The other side had more loyalty toward Moscow.

In the current campaign, though, both Mr. Yanukovich and Ms. Tymoshenko have moved to recast their images.

Mr. Yanukovich, with the help of an American political consultant, has stressed his independence from Russia, calling for Ukraine’s integration with Europe. And Ms. Tymoshenko, who used to attack the Kremlin regularly, now says she will pursue warmer ties with Russia.

In the first round of the election last month, Mr. Yanukovich was first, 10 points ahead of Ms. Tymoshenko. President Yushchenko ended up in fifth place, his popularity hurt by the country’s hard times.

Mr. Yushchenko and Ms. Tymoshenko were once Orange allies, but have grown so estranged that he refused to endorse her and instead urged Ukrainians to vote “against all” on the ballot, a legal option.

Source: The New York Times

Comments