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Analysis: What's Next For Ukraine?

President Kuchma has kept a low profile since the poll RFE/RL's Eastern Europe analyst, Jan Maksymiuk, discusses the likely outcomes of the ongoing protests in Ukraine and argues that the election is the most significant event in the country's 13 years of independence.

As tens of thousands of people are protesting for a second day in Ukraine, the pressure on the Ukrainian authorities is increasing.

Local councilors in several cities in western Ukraine, including Lviv and Ivano-Frankivsk, have adopted resolutions claiming that they will recognize only Yushchenko as the legitimate president and supporting the opposition's call for a general strike.

The Kyiv City Council has passed a resolution expressing distrust in the Central Election Commission (TsVK). The opposition has also managed to collect 150 signatures among parliamentary deputies to call for an emergency session on 23 November to discuss the situation in the country and pass a vote of no confidence in the TsVK. It is not clear how such a vote, if passed, could influence the official results of the 21 November ballot. Parliamentary speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn told journalists on 22 November that any resolution of the Verkhovna Rada on the TsVK would be only a "political gesture."

The reaction of the West is another crucial factor. However, the West's remonstrations against the Ukrainian ballot seem to carry little weight with the Ukrainian authorities. For them, much more important was the position of the Kremlin, which did not conceal its sympathies for Yanukovych during the election campaign. On 22 November, Russian President Vladimir Putin reportedly congratulated Yanukovych on his election victory, saying that "the battle has been hard-fought, but open and honest."

Will The Authorities Yield?

It appears highly improbable that the Ukrainian authorities will yield under the current upsurge of anti-Yanukovych protests and declare Yushchenko the winner.

Two other options seem to be more likely: either the authorities will wait with Yanukovych's inauguration until the antigovernment rebellion exhausts itself or, if the protests prove to be persistent and well attended, the presidential ballot may be declared invalid and incumbent President Leonid Kuchma will continue to rule for another half a year in order to prepare a new election.

Yet, irrespective of the final outcome of the current standoff in Ukraine, it will be very problematic, if not impossible, for Kuchma to assure the political continuity to his regime, which he repeatedly urged during the election campaign.

Ukraine seems to have waken up for a new political life, in which millions of people are no longer wishing to silently endure electoral manipulations, official lies, and autocratic ways of governance.

Seen from this perspective, Ukraine's presidential election of 2004 appears to be the most opportune event in Ukraine's 13 years of independence for politicians, both from the pro-Yanukovych and pro-Yushchenko camps, to practice the difficult art of political compromise in order to ensure the unity of the bitterly divided nation.


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