Yushchenko’s victory seems to be official.
Reformer Viktor Yushchenko, whose victory in Ukraine’s presidential election was all but assured Monday despite his opponent’s threat to appeal the outcome, is expected to move quickly to bolster ties with the West while trying to ease tensions with Russia.
However, his opponent, taking a page from the Democratic Party playbook, has refused to concede and has indicated that he will contest the result in court.
Yanukovych refused to concede defeat, telling reporters he would go to the Supreme Court to challenge the results once the election commission released its final tally.
Later, however, he said he had lost respect for the court over its ruling that annulled the results of the earlier election, which Yushchenko’s camp, international observers and even members of the Central Electoral Commission assailed as fraudulent.
“It breached the constitution and the law,” Yanukovych said of the court. “Today, I can’t have faith in such a chamber.”
Even if, as seems likely, the result withstands a court challenge, or Yanukovych comes to his senses and concedes, Yushchenko has a difficult road ahead to westernize his nation, while at the same time not alienating Russia. Also, troublesome will be uniting the Ukrainian and Russian speaking halves of Ukraine, in addition to dealing with the corruption which marked the outgoing government.
Foreign leaders have also been quick to congratulate Yushchenko.
Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili, whose own accession to power on a wave of peaceful protest in November 2003 inspired Ukraine’s opposition, congratulated Yushchenko in a Ukrainian-language message delivered over Ukrainian television.
Saakashvili, who attended law school in then-Soviet Ukraine, apparently was the first foreign leader to publicly recognize Yushchenko’s victory.
Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski congratulated Yushchenko on Monday, describing his victory as a “good and important choice” for Ukraine’s relations with Europe, Kwasniewski’s office said.
Poland’s former president, Lech Walesa, told the Polish news agency PAP that Yushchenko’s victory meant “Ukraine on its road to freedom and democracy made a small move toward Europe.”
Captain Ed also observes that this election, while the result is favorable to the West, may have other unpleasant consequences for the West. While the result may encourage other former Soviet Republics to break free of the Kremlin’s influence, it may also make Putin desperate to maintain that influence.