Ukraine′s political future in the balance | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 09.02.2010
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Europe

Ukraine's political future in the balance

Ukraine has a new president but does that automatically mean the country will move in a new direction? Bernd Johann of Deutsche Welle's Ukrainian service examines what the future could hold for Ukraine.

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It seems as if democracy and the process of free and fair elections have given Viktor Yanukovych a second chance to become the president of Ukraine. If his victory is confirmed it means defeat for Yulia Tymoshenko, the charismatic but also controversial prime minister. Both were embroiled in a bitter election campaign, on the one hand Tymoshenko as the beacon of hope during the Orange Revolution five years ago, on the other Yanukovych who was found guilty of vote rigging but has now seemingly had his revenge.

Still, the result is not clear-cut and the two blocs are still on a course of confrontation. Tymoshenko has already said she will contest in court the results from a number of constituencies. However international observers have said the elections were largely free and fair which means the result is likely to stand.

So what happens next? Voters want to see a number of reform pledges fulfilled, something Tymoshenko failed to do. As prime minister she was largely responsible for the country's dire economic plight. Ukraine is effectively bankrupt and dependent on help from the International Monetary Fund. As leader of the opposition Yanukovych was in an easy position to criticize the government, but now as the next president his options will also be limited. During the election campaign, for example, he had no answer as to how he intends to increase pensions and social welfare benefits.

Bernd Johann

DW's Bernd Johann

In terms of foreign policy there are unlikely to be major changes. Five years ago Yanukovych and his party sought Moscow's help, however he's not as uniformly pro-Russian as the western media would like to portray him. He will seek alliances with Russia on energy-related issues, at the same time he will want to ensure closer cooperation with the European Union in the form of a free-trade agreement. He knows full well that the EU is as - if not more - important than Russia for Ukraine's economy.

Following the presidential elections the next battles are likely to be fought in parliament and speculation is already rife regarding the timing of early elections. Given its economic predicament, the country can ill afford another protracted and expensive election campaign, however that probably won't be enough to deter the political parties from doing just that.

Author: Bernd Johann (rm)
Editor: Rob Turner

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