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The Tymoshenko endgame: compromise?

Analysis: Yulia Tymoshenko has challenged Ukraine's election results, but has little hope of succeeding.

The OSCE “has no information or evidence of any fraud in the election,” Joao Soares, head of the OSCE’s short-term observer mission, said in a statement on Monday, adding however that, “as a candidate, Yulia Tymoshenko has the right to submit any complaints about the election to the court.” 

(Tymoshenko in fact said that her legal challenge was supported by “individual observers from the OSCE” who “expressed their willingness to appear in the courts on our side with videos and their assessment that there was systematic fraud during the election in Ukraine.”) 

Yanukovych so far has also received congratulations from United States President Barack Obama, Russian leader Dmitry Medvedev and Jose Manuel Barroso, the European Commission president. 

Medvedev in his congratulatory letter (excerpts from which are available on the official Kremlin website) invited Yanukovych to Moscow. He also apparently could not conceal his joy at the victory of the Russia-friendly Yanukovich and took one final dig at outgoing Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko, with whom the Kremlin maintained poisonous relations. 

“The election … confirmed Ukrainians’ desire to end the historically doomed attempts to sow discord between our peoples and their sincere wish to strengthen our good-neighbourly relations,” the letter read. 

So why is Tymoshenko to all appearances trying to annul the election when in fact, as in the words of Yuri Yakymenko, director of the Razumkov think tank in Kiev, this is “practically impossible”? 

The first option, of course, is that she is dead serious and will stop at nothing — right or wrong, and regardless of its impact on Ukraine's political stability — in her quest to become president. 

It is more likely, however, according to Yakymenko and others, that she has to back up her accusations with real evidence, otherwise she loses political face. 

And more importantly, Tymoshenko may currently be trying to carve out as much political space as possible as a leader of a strong and vocal opposition and possibly reaching a compromise to preserve her position as prime minister. If Yanukovych’s victory stands — as it most likely will — his mandate is still razor thin, drawn overwhelmingly from the country’s Russian-speaking industrial east and south. Tymoshenko, vanquished or not, is still the preferred politician for central and western Ukraine. 

“Basically it’s a kind of political weapon in the negotiation process after the election,” said Olexiy Haran, director of the School of Policy Analysis at the Kiev Mohyla Academy. 

“In order to find compromises, it’s important that Mr. Yanukovych and the Party of Regions don’t see this as a zero-sum game,” Haran added. “The whole of Ukrainian politics is organized so that it is necessary to have compromises.”