Because the results in today’s presidential run-off in Ukraine are expected to be close, officials have been warning about the potential for trouble.
Opposition candidate Viktor Yushchenko has already warned he will call his supporters out onto the streets if there is any sign of fraud. Voting in the first round highlighted divisions between the largely nationalist western and central regions backing Yushchenko, and the Russian-speaking, industrial east supporting Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich. Foreign observers have urged officials to correct problems evident in the first round, such as incomplete voting registers that left more than a million people unable to cast a ballot. More than 500 observers from the OSCE will be monitoring the elections. The head of the mission, Geert Hinrich Ahrens, said: “As the two contenders were neck and neck, each between 39 and 40 percent in the previous round, it is very important that the elections will be very accurate and played to the rules, and I will not hide from you that we have certain concerns, and that is why it is so important to have as many observers in the field as possible.” There is no doubt the stakes are seen as high – these elections are seen as crucial in terms of the future direction of Ukraine, a nation that shares borders with three new European Union members, as well as Russia.