KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukrainian ex-Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich is favoured to beat Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko in a run-off for president, according to opinion polls, although a third of people have yet to decide who to vote for.
The ex-Soviet republic holds a presidential election on Jan. 17. No contestant is expected to win the first round outright but Yanukovich and Tymoshenko are widely seen as likely to face each other in a Feb. 7 run-off.Foreign investors hope the election will end squabbling between the president, prime minister and parliament that has paralysed vital decision-making in a country that has been hit hard by the global recession.Figures published from two surveys, which questioned about 2,000 people each, showed an advantage for Yanukovich.In one survey, by the Razumkov Centre, an average of 40.5 percent of those polled said they would vote for Yanukovich in a second-round clash, against 33.3 percent for Tymoshenko.The All-Ukrainian sociological service showed a 38.5 percent to 30.6 percent split in Yanukovich's favour."If we rely on the surveys, then there is great probability of victory by Viktor Yanukovich. But experience shows that one should not rush to say that this is a settled fact," Yuri Ruban, director of the national institute for strategic research, told a news conference."There is a still a reserve. A third of the people did not say (for whom they would vote), a third might change their minds and, of course, such an energetic and powerful player as Yulia Tymoshenko will not sit by with her arms folded," he said.YUSHCHENKO TRAILINGPolls continued to show that President Viktor Yushchenko, who came to power in 2005 following the re-run of an election won by Yanukovich but which was denounced as fraud, was badly trailing the two front-runners.Much of the tension in Ukrainian politics has been generated by intense rivalry between Yushchenko and Tymoshenko who were once allies in the 2004 "Orange revolution" street protests that then ended Yanukovich's hopes of the presidency."It is most probable that Yanukovich will become president, but it is far from 100 percent because first round results and and events which might occur will influence the choice," said Andriy Bychenko of the Razumkov centre."The emotional element can have a strong influence," he said.In an interview published on Wednesday in the Russian newspaper Kommersant, Yanukovich said he would not want Tymoshenko as his prime minister.""She has her own programme, and I do not think that she would agree to implement somebody else's. And what is even more important, even if she agrees, I won't believe her," Yanukovich said."President Yushchenko believed her twice, and she deceived him," he said. "I don't, and can't, have any confidence in Tymoshenko," he said.