Ukraine will elect a new president tomorrow after months of bitter political infighting, with analysts fearing that violent clashes could break out once the results are announced.
Supporters of Yulia Tymoshenko claimed that her rival in the run-off, Viktor Yanukovych, had brought 2,000 former police and security officials into the capital, Kiev, to act as his muscle. Yesterday, 250 of Mr Yanukovych's supporters were camped outside Ukraine's Central Election Commission. They said they were there to prevent any attempt to "hijack" the election by Ms Tymoshenko.
"If Yanukovych wants an honest fight, we're ready to compete," Ms Tymoshenko said. "But if he tries to cheat, we'll be able to rebuff him in ways he's never seen before. We will call people on to the streets, there is no doubt."
The closeness of the race has lent a febrile mood to the last week of the campaign, with the candidates, both of whom face political oblivion if they lose, trading vitriolic insults. Mr Yanukovych, who largely represents the Russian-speaking east and south of the country, was accused by Ms Tymoshenko of being a "puppet" of the oligarchs. He repeatedly called Ms Tymoshenko, one of the leaders of the 2004 Orange Revolution, a liar. He said nobody will come to the streets to fight for her, because people were "sick of her lies, her adventurist politics and her inability to lead the government effectively".
Ms Tymoshenko entered what was supposed to be a television debate between the two candidates this week, but ended up talking to a lectern after Mr Yanukovich stood her up. She called him a "common coward" for refusing the debate. Clumsy and more Soviet in his manner, Mr Yanukovych has preferred to address large ralliesof his own supporters.
The second round comes after last month's initial vote, which failed to determine an outright winner. Viktor Yushchenko, the current President, who has led the country through several years of political and economic turmoil, was knocked out in the first round of voting.
He and Ms Tymoshenko were the figureheads of the Orange Revolution, but Mr Yushchenko was mysteriously poisoned before the 2004 election, and he and Ms Tymoshenko subsequently fell out. Since then, Ukraninian politics has been mired in infighting. If Mr Yanukovych wins tomorrow, the country will have come full circle, and the book will finally be closed on the Orange Revolution.Reuse content