The World From Berlin: 'For Ukraine's Sake, Tymoshenko Needs to Concede Defeat'

Yulia Tymoshenko has lost the Ukrainian presidential election to pro-Russian rival Viktor Yanukovych but is still refusing to concede defeat, even though international observers say there was no fraud. German media commentators say she must back down to help end the country's damaging division.

Ukrainian presidential candidate Yulia Tymoshenko is refusing to concede defeat. Zoom
dpa

Ukrainian presidential candidate Yulia Tymoshenko is refusing to concede defeat.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko narrowly lost the presidential election to her archrival, Viktor Yanukovych, on Sunday but was quoted on Tuesday as saying she will "never recognize" her pro-Russian rival's victory.

According to preliminary official results released on Monday evening, Yanukovych won 48.8 percent of the vote, more than three percentage points ahead of Tymoshenko, and international observers said the vote was an "impressive display of democratic elections."

The Ukrainska Pravda daily on Tuesday quoted Tymoshenko as telling a meeting of her party on Monday evening: "I will never recognize the legitimacy of Yanukovych's victory with such elections." The newspaper's Web site reported that she had told her lawyers to prepare to contest the results in court.

German media commentators say Tymoshenko needs to concede defeat for the sake of her country, which urgently needs political stability to carry out further reforms. Yanukovych, they say, couldn't push Ukraine back to its old authoritarian system even if he wanted to. Besides, they add, the oligarchs backing him are pushing for closer ties with the European Union.

The conservative Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung writes:

"The most important result of the presidential election in Ukraine wasn't the outcome but the way the vote was conducted. Since the Orange Revolutionfive years ago launched to protest massive manipulation during the presidential election at the time, the country has experienced three elections that met democratic standards."

"That is a success owed to the popular movement that was led at the time by Yulia Tymoshenko. The fact that she has narrowly lost out in a fair election to Viktor Yanukovych, the man who tried to seize power at the time through lies, subterfuge and violence, isn't pretty, but it's not a disaster either. One doesn't have to take Yanukovych's democratic pledges seriously -- but even if he wanted to, he would find it difficult to set up an authoritarian regime like the one that was toppled five years ago because even his own camp has become more pluralistic."

"Nevertheless, his victory could endanger Ukrainian democracy, which is weak and based less on institutions than on a delicate balance of political forces that control each other. The absence of vote manipulation may have been less due to democratic principles than to a lack of opportunity.

"The loser now faces a major responsibility for preserving democracy in Ukraine. She would do her country the greatest service if she conceded defeat and conducted opposition activities more constructively than the outgoing and future presidents did in recent months.

"Yulia Tymoshenko's behavior in recent months gives reason to doubt if she's really ready for this test of maturity. She would probably be the better head of state for a democratic Ukraine than Yanukovych; now she must prove that she is also the better opposition leader."

The Berlin daily Tagesspiegel writes:

"East beats West, apparatchik beats blonde, Stalinism conquers democracy: None of these descriptions really fits the Ukrainian presidential election. It was simply a democratic election in a democratic country, and even election winner Viktor Yanukovych won't be able to change the country's fundamental course. That is an accomplishment of his predecessor, Viktor Yushchenko. No other former Soviet state -- apart from the Baltic states -- enjoys such a high degree of freedom of opinion, such a well-developed culture of political debate and such basic democratic rights. The newly elected president won't be able to reverse all that."

The center-left Süddeutsche Zeitung writes:

"The losers in Kiev would do Ukraine a big favor if they conceded defeat. It would be fatal if the two opponents were to continue their battle, which has paralyzed political life in Kiev for years. Only if there's domestic political stability can further reforms be tackled, reforms that even the powerful oligarchs are pushing for behind the scenes. They also know that democratization is an essential precondition for further EU support for Ukraine. And Kiev will need that support in its next conflict with Moscow."

"Yanukovych might be an even more uncomfortable partner for Moscow than Yushchenko or Tymoshenko were. The oligarchs behind Yanukovych are pushing for closer ties with the EU. They need to find new markets and need technological cooperation in order to modernize their factories and mines. They don't want to be dependent on Russia. The same applies to the lucrative tourism business in the Crimean peninsula."

Left-wing Berliner Zeitung writes that Yanukovich's victory has "sealed the failure of the Orange Revolution":

"Five years after the Orange Revolution, when everything had seemed so simple, it's hard to fathom Ukraine these days. The country is divided, not just into two halves but in a much more complicated way. Dividing lines criss-cross the entire society. It will take a few more years before it becomes clear who in this country really lost out on Sunday, and who won."

-- David Crossland

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