Feb 7, 2010 | 21:10 GMT

2 mins read

Ukraine: Presidential Polls and the Path Ahead

According to exit polls, former Ukrainian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich has narrowly beaten current Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko in the country's Feb. 7 runoff presidential election. Assuming these figures are accurate — and that is a big assumption as Ukrainian exit polls, like exit polls in general, are notoriously unreliable — the following moves can be expected in Kiev. Timoshenko's camp had issued charges of election fraud even before the results from exit polls were announced, and she will likely urge her supporters to rally in the next week, though it is widely known that these demonstrations will not rival those of the pro-Western Orange Revolution in 2004. Legal challenges, not popular upheaval, will now be the most important developments to watch in the electoral process — and the laws regarding election protocol have been altered just this past week by outgoing President Viktor Yushchenko. In the past, the Central Electoral Commission (CEC) has been required to certify the results of the election — a task that has frequently deadlocked the process since many CEC members would simply boycott the vote if they did not like the results. But under Yushchenko's changes, the CEC will be allowed to issue a ruling even if some members decide to boycott the certification vote. Yanukovich supporters already hold the majority on the CEC, and with the changes to the laws, it is widely expected to verify his win sometime this week. After the CEC certifies the election results, both candidates must sign off on the certification. Should one of the candidates refuse to accept the CEC ruling, the only option left would be to take the issue to Ukraine's Supreme Court — another Yanukovich stronghold. Should the figures from the exit polls prove accurate, Timoshenko may find all her legal options blocked. It will be important to watch what kind of legal maneuvering either candidate attempts, despite the electoral changes made this past week.

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