Preliminary official results released on Feb. 10 mirrored all exit polls. The Central Election Commission said Yanukovych won nearly 49 percent of vote, compared to Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko’s 45.5 percent. Nearly 4.5 percent of 25.5 million voters who showed up on Election Day cast ballots against both, a valid option on Ukraine’s ballot. Yanukovych came out on top by 887,928 votes, or 3.48 percentage points ahead of his rival.
As of Feb. 11, however, Tymoshenko had refused to concede the election and her advisers promised to launch legal challenges alleging that large-scale voter fraud thwarted the will of the people – and her victory. But as the Orange Revolution heroine remained in seclusion for much of the week, she faced growing pressure to bow out.
The 59-year-old Yanukovych has loomed large – in physical stature and political influence – on the national scene for nearly a decade. He has served twice as prime minister. The first time was from 2002-2004 under ex-President Leonid Kuchma. He returned again in 2006-2007, serving under President Victor Yushchenko. Before that, during the late 1990s, Yanukovych served as governor and vice governor of Donetsk Oblast, the nation’s most populous region.