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Original article in Ukrainian by Tetyana Nikolayenko, UP

Translated by Eugene Ivantsov

The Party of Regions (PRU) has been persuading everyone that it won the election thus having the right to form a coalition. At that, the PRU MPs keep repeating that they received 2% more at this election.

However, the election results declared by the Central Election Commission (CEC) give cause for reflection: was it maybe Pyrrhic victory?

The Party of Regions

Considering the election outcome for the PRU percentagewise, the Donetsk-based party has indeed improved its result by 2%. But absolute figures are not so attractive.

If at last year’s election 8 148 745 voters supported the PRU, in 2007 the party received 8 013 918 votes.

Thus, the PRU has lost 135 000 votes. In fact, these losses could be even greater.

Nestor Shufrych and Inna Bohoslovska received positions in the top 5 of the party list not simply for their public speaking skills. Theoretically, they had to contribute to the election result of the PRU with the votes of their followers. Last year Viche and Ne Tak received almost 700 000 votes altogether.

Of course, all those 700 000 did not vote for the PRU at this election, but supporters of Mrs. Bohoslovska and SDPU are closer to the PRU than to the BYuT and Our Ukraine –People’s Self-Defense.

But PRU did not receive additional votes. Or maybe it did but these votes ‘mended’ holes in the PRU electoral support.

As compared with 2006, the PRU preserved its influence in western and southern regions. Moreover, Yanukovych and Co. managed to increase their popularity in the so-called ‘expansion zones’ covering central and western Ukraine.

Of course, they did not receive desirable surplus of 5-10%, but they coped with the task in Khmelnytsk and Cherkasy regions, and even in Zakarpattya where the PRU is traditionally unpopular.

The PRU received 4% more in Zaporizhya region. Most probably, these are the votes of Natalia Vitrenko who received 6.54% in Zaporizhya last year, having got only 1.71% this time.

At the same time, the PRU lost votes in its small Motherland – Donetsk, Luhansk and Kharkiv regions. Mr. Yanukovych lost there130 600, 70 600 and 106 500 votes respectively.

The PRU may boast of its phenomenal election results (34%) but one cannot run away from figures. The number of supporters has reduced, and so has the number of seats in parliament (175 against 185).

Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc

In spite of Gallup Polls the BYuT receives more votes at the second election in a row. This time Yulia Tymoshenko received 30.7% having increased the number of her supporters by 1.5 million (5 652 876 in 2006 against 7 162 174 in 2007).

This year the BYuT won election in 16 regions while last year it was only 14.

This year the BYuT received the first position in Ivano-Frankivsk and Lviv regions that used to contribute much to Our Ukraine last year’s victory in these regions.

In general, the BYuT increased its popularity in all regions. There is not a single region where the BYuT results got worse at least percentagewise. The BYuT scored the best results in Ivano-Frankivsk, Lviv, Rivne and Ternopil regions, receiving 15-20%.

The Crimea, Donetsk and Luhansk remain problem regions for Yulia Tymoshenko.

Our Ukraine – People’s Self-Defense

Our Ukraine – People’s Self-Defense received 4 million votes less than the BYuT. But more importantly, this time 3 301 012 Ukraine’s citizens voted for the president’s party. It means that the united democratic forces received 238 000 votes less than Our Ukraine alone at the last year’s election (3 539 140).

NU-NS received less votes even despite personal popularity of Yuriy Lutsenko and despite the comeback of Ukrainian People’s Party and Mr. Karmazin who received about half million votes at the last parliamentary election.

If last year Our Ukraine celebrated victory in Zakarpattya, Lviv and Ivano-Frankivsk regions, this time only Zakarpattya favored NU-NS.

NU-NS improved its results in Kyiv, Kharkiv, Cherkasy and Zakarpattya regions by 3-5%. At the same time, the bloc received 7-9% less in Ivano-Frankivsk and Chernivtsi regions.

NU-NS received the third position in Zhytomyr region run by NU-NS member Yuriy Pavlenko. The president’s bloc was fifth in Zaporizhya region headed by Yevhen Chervonenko who was not included on the party list at this election.

In general, the results of NU-NS became worse in 12 regions.

The Communist Party of Ukraine

At the last election it seemed that Lenin’s followers were almost dead. But the Communists did not only manage to improve their last year’s results but they appeared the only left-wing force in parliament.

Calling to vote for the only left-wing political force with real chances of entering parliament, Petro Symonenko and Co. improved election results by 327 000 votes.

The Communist Party entered parliament due to traditional support of western regions, having received the second place in Luhansk and Sevastopol and the third position in the Crimea, Donetsk, Dnipropetrovsk, Zaporizhya, Mykolayiv, Kharkiv and Kherson regions.

Lytvyn Bloc

The lucky beggar of this election Volodymyr Lytvyn received 304 000 votes more than last year. 924 568 Ukrainian citizens chose to vote for his bloc.

Volodymyr Lytvyn’s best results were in Kyiv, Dnipropetrovsk and Zhytomyr regions.

The Socialist Party of Ukraine

SPU that failed the election this year had lost 776 000 voters during one year of Mr. Moroz’s speakership and participation in the Anticrisis Coalition. This year 668 185 Ukraine’s citizens voted for Mr. Moroz’s party.

SPU appears outside the Verkhovna Rada. The party declares it will not dispute the election outcome in courts. However, Oleksandr Moroz warns of his soon comeback to the big-time politics.

Does he maybe hope that the Party of Regions will help him by refusing to take the oath of office, thus making parliament incompetent?

Comparison table of the election results:

***

Traditionally, the PRU’s results in the western regions are very low, while the BYuT and Our Ukraine are unpopular in the eastern regions. Politicians take advantage of it speculating on the issue of split in Ukraine and demanding to form a broad coalition.

The PRU is expected to receive 175 seats in parliament while the BYuT will have 156.

That means that although both political forces failed to receive majority at this election, they received enough seats to bloc the work of a new parliament or even destroy it in the event they do not agree with the share of positions in authority.

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spectator.co.ukTo her legions of adoring groupies she is the Orange Princess, the goddess of the Ukrainian revolution and the world’s most beautiful politician.

Even her critics admit that with her blonde hair braided in the traditional Ukrainian peasant way like a crown around her head and her flamboyant designer outfits, Yulia Tymoshenko cuts a surreal figure, a cross between Princess Leia of Star Wars and Princess Diana. Her striking appearance helped to turn her into a global cultural icon when she took to the barricades during Ukraine’s Orange Revolution and then during her brief stint as prime minister last year.

Forbes magazine declared Tymoshenko the world’s third most powerful woman after Condoleezza Rice, the US Secretary of State, and Wu Yi, the Chinese vice-premier; any day now, depending on the outcome of the coalition negotiations in Kiev, Tymoshenko will either return as Ukraine’s prime minister or emerge as her country’s power-broker.

Given the popstar-style hype that invariably surrounds her, I was half fearing disappointment when I went to see Tymoshenko last week. She was on a fleeting visit to Britain to meet financiers and William Hague, the shadow foreign secretary. I needn’t have worried.

After a lengthy wait in a corridor in front of her suite in the Savoy, which was guarded by severe-looking Ukrainian bodyguards and American advisers, I was finally ushered in, and there was Tymoshenko, exactly as advertised, a petite figure exuding a huge presence.

She was wearing an elaborate white coat, skirt and matching pearls, handbag and stiletto heels. She is 45, but looks at least ten years younger.

Even more striking than her hair is her mesmerising stare, of an almost shocking intensity, which is in stark contrast to the quiet, almost understated tone of her voice.

She looked unwaveringly into my eyes until she finished answering each question; unnervingly, she continued to stare even as her interpreter translated after her.

My attempts at holding her gaze soon crumbled, and I pretended to fiddle with my tape recorder to avoid admitting defeat. When I looked up again, her brown eyes were still staring at me.

There was one question I was dying to ask her – and it had nothing to do with her fairytale hair, which she claims to do herself every morning in only seven minutes.

Although she is sometimes known as Ukraine’s Iron Yulia, Tymoshenko has never revealed what she thinks of Margaret Thatcher. So what does she think of her? ‘There is probably natural solidarity, female solidarity,’ she began, smiling. But there is a lot more than that.

‘I admire her strong, bright personality,’ she said, something that none of today’s new generation of timid, politically correct wannabe female Tory MPs would ever dare to admit.

Then came the punchline: ‘Yes, indeed, I have Margaret Thatcher as my model.’

When the Spice Girls claimed to be Thatcherites in an interview with The Spectator in 1996, we all knew it was a bit of a joke; but when the formidable Tymoshenko reveals for the first time that Thatcher is her role model she should be taken with deadly seriousness.

There are many similarities between the two women. Like Thatcher, people either hate Tymoshenko or idolise her; no one is ever indifferent.

To her numerous detractors in Ukraine and Russia, she is merely a populist responsible for many of Ukraine’s woes, a vastly rich gas oligarch who made her money running the giant United Energy Systems of Ukraine in the mid-1990s. Tymoshenko laughed this off, and drew parallels between herself and Lady Thatcher: ‘I’m sure that any strong personality in politics gives rise to both positive and negative emotions. The stronger the personalities, the more radical the positive and negative emotions.’

Tymoshenko has long used her femininity for political advantage. She has appeared on the cover of the Ukrainian edition of Elle magazine, has said that any ‘real woman’ would be happy to appear on the cover of Playboy, and makes sexually suggestive jokes.

But after serving as vice-prime minister for two years she was arrested in 2001 and accused of forging customs documents and smuggling gas.

She was subsequently released and cleared of all charges. Those who know her say her 42 days spent in jail gave her a steely determination to succeed and crush her enemies.

Tymoshenko gained a reputation as a bit of a leftist during her first term in office – she was sacked after seven months by President Viktor Yushchenko after a spectacular row – but she is now keen to emphasise her Thatcherite economics.

When she was prime minister, Tymoshenko demanded a large-scale review of the privatisations carried out in dodgy circumstances during the reign of Leonid Kuchma, the former president.

At the time this was widely interpreted as an attack on private property. She now emphatically supports further reforms and claims that her original policy was misunderstood.

‘As a result of the severe political struggle between the old system and the new Orange team, the mass media published lots of myths about re-privatisations, nationalisation and price-fixing.

All of these things I would like to say are absurd, we want to pursue none of these things,’ she assured me. Any disputes over the legitimacy of past privatisations – some of which were carried out at discounted prices to friends of the previous pro-Russian regime – would be determined by the courts.

‘The legitimacy or otherwise of privatisation or anything connected with private property is not in the remit of any bureaucrat, only of the courts.’

Although the Orange Revolution is widely viewed as a disappointment, Tymoshenko argues that it has done much good and that she can’t wait to be in a position to rekindle its flames.

‘Before the Orange Revolution we had an absolutely post-Soviet state with all the post-Soviet rules,’ she said. There was ‘corruption, clans, unpredictability, helplessness, absence of an effective courts system, absolute bias and a lack of independence of the mass media.

To understand the importance of the Orange Revolution one needs to have lived in that period. The Orange Revolution has changed Ukraine absolutely.’

She wants to restart an ambitious programme of free-market reforms. ‘While I was in the government as prime minister, my government managed to abolish more than 5,000 regulatory Acts which were creating terrible conditions for corruption in businesses.

Under my government, the only transparent, honest privatisation took place. We would like to continue these policies.’

She assured me that she will continue to privatise Ukraine’s strategic industries, starting with the communications sector, slash duties and tariffs; remove barriers to foreign banks and insurance companies and ‘reform the judicial system to provide guarantees for stability and reliability’.

Юлія Тимошенко: Олександр Мороз понесе кримінальну відповідальність за проведення нелегітимної сесії Верховної РадиOne of the biggest challenges for both Tymoshenko and the West is that 80 per cent of Russia’s gas exports to Europe go through Ukraine.

Earlier this year, to punish the country for the Orange Revolution, President Vladimir Putin massively hiked the price Ukraine pays for its gas; he briefly switched off the supplies, which also affected Europe.

‘Ukraine respects Russia as its neighbour, as a political partner, but the question of energy independence for Ukraine is the issue number one. The reason why it hasn’t been solved is that there was no political will from political authorities.’

She told me that she wants to attract foreign investors to help rebuild the oil and gas sectors, to integrate Ukraine’s electricity network into Europe’s, to burn more coal and less gas, build new pipelines and make nuclear power stations safer.

In terms of raw politics, Tymoshenko is in a class of her own, an astonishingly powerful communicator who perfectly projects a constantly evolving image of herself; she was a long-haired brunette just four years ago.

She is a master at brand-building: her political party is called the Yulia Tymoshenko bloc and she is probably the only living politician, apart from Fidel Castro, whose clothes and hairstyles set fashions.

Her personal life – she is married but has been linked to many powerful men – leads the magazines and gossip columns. Her website, which has an English edition, is by far the most sophisticated of any politician this side of the Atlantic.

Tymoshenko-branded merchandise is available for download, including a computer screensaver of her posing on a motorbike, as well as dozens of mini-films, political broadcasts and audio files.

There are also photos of the recent wedding of her daughter Yevgenia, a London School of Economics graduate who married Sean Carr, a long-haired member of the Yorkshire rock band, the Death Valley Screamers.

Talks between Ukraine’s parties have been going on since the elections on 26 March. A new Orange coalition is most likely and could be announced as early as this week.

It would be led by the Tymoshenko bloc and also include two other parties, Viktor Yushchenko’s Our Ukraine and the Socialists.

‘For the second time, the population has voted for the European orientation, the European vector of policy, for the integration in world markets, into the civilised way of development,’ Tymoshenko said.

She acknowledged that the long-winded negotiations ‘could look to some like instability or disorder but this I can assure you is not the case. All this testifies that a rapid and intense transformation is going on.

Ukraine today is the Poland or the Czech Republic of the 1990s. All ways are open to us.’ On that note, Ukraine’s answer to Maggie got up, picked up her handbag and bade me farewell.

Allister Heath is associate editor of The Spectator and deputy editor of the Business.