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General overview

The Orange Revolution was the culmination of the 2004 October–November Presidential elections in Ukraine. The main candidates were Viktor Yanukovych and Viktor Yushchenko. Yanukovych, who had been the Ukrainian prime minister since 2002, was backed by the incumbent Ukrainian President, Leonid Kuchma, as well as by Russia and its then–president Vladimir Putin (Bilaniuk, 2005; Karatnycky, 2005). Yushchenko, leader of the “Our Ukraine” oppositional faction in the Ukrainian parliament and a former Prime Minister (1999–2001), was considered a more pro–Western politician.

The first round of the 2004 presidential elections in Ukraine was held on 31 October 2004. It resulted in a small lead for Yushchenko, with 39.87 percent of the votes compared to Yanukovych’s 39.32 percent. Since neither candidate got a 50 percent majority, the second round of the election was scheduled for 21 November, after which the Central Election Commission proclaimed Yanukovych the winner, with 49.42 percent of the votes compared to Yushchenko’s 46.69 percent. The pro–Yushchenko forces and a majority of international observers claimed that the elections were falsified. Observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) announced that the election did not meet international standards (OSCE, 2004), and U.S. Senator Richard Lugar, who acted as the senior election observer, even called it “a concerted and forceful program of election day fraud.” (Kuzio, 2004) This fraud caused widespread acts of civil disobedience through the whole country (the period of time usually considered “the” Orange Revolution), and eventually the Supreme Court of Ukraine scheduled a repeat vote on 26 December 2004. Yushchenko won with almost 52 percent, compared to Yanukovych’s 44 percent (all the above vote–related numbers are available at the Web site of Ukrainian Central Election Commission. Yanukovych refused to accept this result, but on 10 January 2005, the Supreme Court declared Yushchenko the winner (Ligostova, 2005).