Wednesday, February 10, 2010

What Comes Next?

The Central Electoral Commission has tallied the ballots and published the final results, moving toward a formalization of Viktor Yanukovych's victory. Yuliya Tymoshenko's team has suggested that it will challenge the results. Because the results are close - 887,928 votes separate the two - invalidation of results in some districts could raise questions about the final tally. International and domestic organizations found no evidence of large-scale fraud, undermining mobilization and rendering court decisions that would overturn the results extremely unlikely. As I have noted before, the issue of fraud is related to its scale rather than its presence; if one looks hard enough, it is likely that evidence of fraud will indeed be found. While I have not yet assembled polling-station level data for assessment, it is likely to be small scale and diffuse.

The election challenge gambit is layered on top of another drama in Kyiv: efforts to oust Tymoshenko as prime minister. Forming a new coalition would require strange bedfellows. The idea of a grand coalition between the Party of Regions and Our Ukraine has been floated before, but pairing Our Ukraine and the Communists is a tougher sell to members and constituents of both groups. If Yanukovych's team comes up with a coalition, it could avoid the potential perils of early elections. But, its coalition might be weak and fractious. Moreover, coalition partners would expect cabinet posts (it is likely Our Ukraine would demand the prime minister's portfolio, with someone like Yuriy Yekhanurov taking the post). Alternatively, Yanukovych's team could engineer a collapse of the current coalition which has barely held together, and set up early parliamentary elections. Parliamentary elections are a risk, however, as they may not yield a coalition to Yanukovych's liking.

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