When Leonid Kuchma cast his ballot on Sunday many expected a smooth transfer of power in Ukraine, not what the outgoing president describes as the current “political farce” of mass protests. He says he will “uphold law and order”, but will not be the first to resort to force. Kuchma was elected in 1994 on a pledge to build closer ties to Moscow. The man he has groomed as his successor promises more of the same, playing on the country’s growing economy in the campaign.
Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich also wants to make Russian an official language. He has not appeared in public since Monday’s broadcast in which he said a “small group of radicals” was trying to divide the country. His supporters, however, have been on the streets, although in far fewer numbers than his opponent, Viktor Yushchenko’s. Yanukovich is popular among Russian-speakers, and he has the backing of big business.