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Ukraine's Tymoshenko Likely Prime Minister

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Ukraine's Tymoshenko Likely Prime Minister


Ukraine's Tymoshenko Likely Prime Minister

Ukraine's Tymoshenko Likely Prime Minister

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Yulia Tymoshenko speaks during her news conference in Kiev, Ukraine, after her victory during Sunday's parliamentary elections. Joe Klamar/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

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Joe Klamar/AFP/Getty Images

Almost all the votes in Ukraine's election have now been counted, and it looks like the people who led Ukraine's "Orange Revolution" three years ago will now retake control of the government.

One big winner, and the likely new prime minister, is Yulia Tymoshenko. After years of political stagnation in Ukraine, Tymoshenko's party won the support of many Ukrainians, who hope that she will be a force for change.

Tymoshenko is never seen in the same chic outfit twice, but there are some things that have not changed since she rose to power in the Orange Revolution of 2004 — her trademark crown of braided blond hair and her determination.

On election night last Sunday, when Tymoshenko was swamped by reporters in her swank campaign press center she dismissed any notion the Orange coalition's tiny lead in votes would make governing difficult.

"We've agreed that it's necessary to pass an entirely new constitution, bring the authorities under control and establish justice in Ukraine," she said.

Tymoshenko is set to become Ukraine's prime minister after improving her vote after last year's showing. Political analyst Vadim Karasyov said she is a quick learner and a consummate political operator.

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"She's smart, sensitive and understands the nature of the game," said Karasyov.

Candidate Has Gas Industry Ties

Tymoshenko comes from the industrial eastern Dnipropetrovsk region and counts powerful billionaire tycoons among her supporters. That has brought accusations of corruption, as did her lucrative former job in the natural gas industry, which made her very rich and earned her the nickname the "gas princess."

Tymoshenko became an icon of the Orange Revolution in 2004, when the pro-Moscow administration was swept out of power. But as prime minister under her erstwhile ally, pro-western President Victor Yushchenko, Tymoshenko's attacks against businessmen she called corrupt and demands for increased welfare spending led to bitter infighting. The president dismissed her in 2005.

Now Tymoshenko has returned, and some people believe she can bridge the splits in Ukrainian society.

Tymoshenko Gains Eastern Support

The main split is between western and eastern Ukraine. The western part of the country generally supports the Orange camp and wants to boost ties to the European Union. The eastern, industrial coal basin has a preponderance of Russian speakers and wants to retain links to Moscow.

Sunday's vote showed that Tymoshenko had eroded eastern Ukraine's support for her old rival, the pro-Moscow Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych. Yanukovych was displaced by the Orange Revolution, but he returned to power as prime minister in 2006.

Karasyov said that was a deliberate strategy.

"Much of Tymoshenko's new support came from the east, where she successfully raised social issues, such as wages and pensions. She wants to become a truly national leader," Karasyol said.

But Tymoshenko's success also came at the expense of the Orange Revolution's leader, President Viktor Yushchenko. Many blame him for allowing Yanukovych back into power.

Many Ukrainians believe Tymoshenko's success in the weekend's elections is only a stepping stone. They expect her to run in the next presidential election in 2010.