Tymoshenko's EU allies keen for end to election dispute

18.02.10 @ 17:39

  1. By Andrew Rettman
  2. Andrew email

BRUSSELS - Ukraine Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko's allies in the EU's centre-right political establishment have hinted that she should give up her presidential campaign if she loses a key court challenge.

  • Tymoshenko: with her trademark white tiger mascot (Photo: byut.com.ua)

Ms Tymoshenko is set to appear at a hearing of Ukraine's Higher Administrative Court on Friday (19 February) to press her claim that rival candidate Viktor Yanukovych used fraud to win the second round of the election.

The court is expected to rule by Sunday, potentially clearing the way for Mr Yanukovych's inauguration on 25 February.

German centre-right MEP Elmar Brok, a leading figure in the European People's Party (EPP) and in the EU parliament's foreign affairs committee, told EUobserver that Ms Tymoshenko has every right to bring a legal challenge if she has evidence of wrongdoing.

But when asked if she risks alienating EPP allies by protracting her refusal to accept defeat, Mr Brok added: "This should not last too long ... There will be a court decision and then it should not be the case to continue [the dispute] for a long time so that we have a deadlock."

British Conservative MEP Charles Tannock, a personal friend of Ms Tymoshenko but whose party is no longer an EPP member, said: "My advice to Yulia is: In a democracy, if you have been beaten fair and square, then you have to concede defeat."

"I have to say with a heavy heart that I'm afraid Yanukovych won the election. If she can't produce the evidence and she persists, then she risks eroding support," he added.

Ms Tymoshenko has made much of her EPP support in the run-up to the vote, publishing statements by EPP chairman Hans Martens and pictures of herself at the EPP congress in Bonn last December on her official website.

The EU's top officials, EU Council President Herman Van Rompuy and EU commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso, who also hail from the EPP family, have already congratulated Mr Yanukovych and invited him to come to Brussels.

Mr Yanukovych has been to the EU capital before and did not make a great impression. "He looks every inch the old Soviet apparatchik," an EU parliament contact said.

Some post-election remarks by the president-elect and his advisors, such as saying that Ukraine should join a customs union with Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan, have also jangled nerves.

"Potential Ukrainian membership in the customs union would be an obstacle for our negotiations and the conclusion of the Free Trade Agreement," an EU official said.

But Mr Yanukovych is seen in the EU institutions as a pragmatist who is likely to make pro-Russian statements for the sake of public relations while rolling out pro-EU integration reforms.

"Yanukovych tries to be liked in Russia and therefore he makes such steps and statements. But just look at [Belarus president] Lukashenka, who signed the protocols on Belarus' participation in the customs union (which still has not been launched and is not operational) and who is now voicing some concerns against it," the EU official added.