In just Seven days time Ukraine will go to the polls in what is their fourth national ballot since Viktor Yushchenko took office. Yushchenko having lost in the first round vote is now engaged in a campaign of revenge and has offered his support to his past rival Viktor Yanukovych.
Yanukovych remains in poll position and is most likely to win next week’s final ballot. At the end of the first round ballot held on January 17, Yanukovych on 35.32% was 10 percentage points ahead of his nearest rival current Prime Minister and heroine of the Orange revolution Yulia Tymoshenko.
The decision as who will win the final ballot will be determined by the second choice vote of 36% who supported other minor candidates. The turn out on January 17 was also at the lower end of expectation and an additional 5-7 million Ukrainians (20%) could be motivated to cast a ballot in the final round.
Expectation is that Tymoshenko will fall short by 5% points.
Early results will show just how close it really is. A comparison of polling pace to polling place as the results come in will show the extent of the national swing and the expected outcome of the election. A clear indication just how close it is should be known within two to three hours of the results being reported. Exit polls will also foretell the expected outcome by 8PM on Sunday February 7.
Crowds will either gather in celebration or in protest.
If the election result is close then Ukraine will face serious civil unrest. The winner will not stand by and allow the results to be overturned. Allegation and counter allegations of voting fraud in the first round of elections did not eventuate. No doubts these allegations will once again surface whether they have any basis of merit or not.
Democracy is not only about winning elections but maintaining confidence in the process and acceptance of defeat. The Events of 2004 and again in 2007 have left a serious public distrust and loss of confidence in the political process. Ukraine is on the verge of either taking a new direction or the possibility of total anarchy. A tinder box waiting to be ignited.
Ukraine’s cold winter is both a blessing and a curse. On one hand it will reduce the extent of voter participation on the other it may help quell support and protest. Supporters of Tymoshenko will not be as motivated this time round as they were in 2004.
Yanukovych’s support base on the other hand will not stand by and allow the election to be stolen from their grasp.
Any disputation over the election results must establish that any errors or omission in the conduct of the poll would have produced a decisive change in the overall result. It would be wrong to prosecute every single flaw in the administration of the ballot if the results would not alter had the errors or omissions not occurred.
One week remaining and the battle will not be over, it has only just begun.