On Sunday 17 January Ukraine holds its first presidential elections since the 2004 Orange Revolution. In the third installment of his blog, Andrew Wilson tells us what to watch out for on election night

By Andrew Wilson

In my last update I spoke about a rogue poll that suggested prime minister Tymoshenko might not make it through to a second round of voting. That raised eyebrows but few here in Ukraine are taking it seriously. Instead, people are looking for more concrete signs of which way the Ukrainian wind is blowing. With this in mind, here's my brief guide of what to watch out for when the polls close this Sunday at 8 pm (6 pm GMT, 7 pm CET)

  • The media may prematurely declare Yanukovych’s victory, but it’s the size of the gap that counts. Less than 10% and Tymoshenko is confident she can close it in the second round. 10-15% and the election will be close. More than 15% is difficult. Of course this assumes a second round with Yanukovych and Tymoshenko, which brings us to the outsider that the rogue Russian poll suggested might edge into second place: Serhiy Tyhipko.
  • Tyhipko may well end up as king- or queen-maker. Ukrainians are fed up with their old leaders and his is a fresh face: an independent businessman who has been out of politics since 2004. Tymoshenko is Prime Minister, so she has levers to pull. No one really expects Tyhipko actually to overtake her. But other polls have shown him approaching 10% or more - so he could easily tip the balance to whomever promises him the premiership or his old job as head of the Central Bank. His supporters are by definition new converts, however. They may not necessarily do what he asks them in round two.
  • The election could end up in the courts. The key decision would be taken by the new High Administration Court. Funnily enough, the politicians have been fighting to control it since 2008. It could be an interesting few weeks!

For more...

In Part One of Ukraine Decides, Andrew looks at what went wrong after 2004's Orange Revolution. You can read Part One here

In Part Two of Ukraine Decides, Andrew examines why Europe should care about the Ukrainian election. You can read Part Two here

You can listen to a podcast interview with Andrew Wilson talking about the elections here. You can also subscribe to ECFR podcasts via iTunes or podhoster.com.

Andrew Wilson is available for press interviews and comment on the elections. Click here for our press advisory.


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The European Council on Foreign Relations does not take collective positions. This commentary, like all publications of the European Council on Foreign Relations, represents only the views of its authors.