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The Ukrainian presidential election, 2004 was held in November 21 and December 26, 2004. The election was the fourth presidential election to take place in Ukrainemarker following independence from the Soviet Unionmarker. The last stages of the election was contested between the opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko and the incumbent Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych from the Party of Regions. The election was held in a highly charged political atmosphere, with allegations of media bias, voter intimidation and a poisoning of candidate Yushchenko that was later confirmed to be the result of dioxin poisoning.

According to Ukraine's electoral law, a two-round system is used to elect the President in which a candidate must win a majority (50% or more) of all ballots cast. In the first round of voting, which was held on October 31, 2004. As no candidate had 50% or more of the votes cast a run-off ballot between the two-highest polling candidates, Viktor Yushchenko and Viktor Yanukovych, was held on November 21. According to official Central Election Commission results announced on November 23, the run-off election was won by Viktor Yanukovych. The election results were challenged by Viktor Yushchenko and his supporters with many international observers claiming that the election as rigged.

The subsequent events led to a political crisis in Ukraine, with widespread peaceful protesters, dubbed the "Orange Revolution," calling for a re-run second round election. The Ukrainian Supreme Court annulled the official run-off results and ordered a repeat of second round ballot.

The final re-run ballot was held on December 26. Viktor Yushchenko was declared the winner with 52 percent of the vote to Yanukovych's 44 percent.

International Observers reported that the re-run ballot was considered overall fairer then the previous ballots.

For a timeline of events that followed the runoff, see Post-election developments in Ukraine, 2004.


All together 26 candidates had nominated and participated in presidential elections

The two main contenders in the election were the incumbent Prime Minister and government-supported candidate Viktor Yanukovych and opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko. Viktor Yanukovych, who was the Prime Minister since 2002, was supported by the outgoing President Leonid Kuchma, as well as by the Russianmarker government and then president Vladimir Putin.

Viktor Yushchenko was portrayed as being more pro-Western and who had received support of the European Union states and the United Statesmarker.


Preliminary vote

Viktor Yushchenko (First round) - percentage of total national vote
Viktor Yanukovych (First round) - percentage of total national vote
Olexandr Moroz (First round) - percentage of total national vote

The preliminary ballot of the 2004 presidential election was held on October 31, 2004. The official results recording Viktor Yushchenko with 39.87 percent and Victor Yanukovych 39.32 percent of the votes cast. As no candidate had secured 50% or more votes required for outright victory, a run-off election was scheduled for November 21. Although a 75 percent turnout was recorded in the initial vote, observers reported many irregularities, particularly in the regions where Yushchenko's support was seen to be strongest. It was unclear how much of an impact this had on the result.

A total of 28,035,184 voters participated in the first round of voting. Results of the preliminary vote were as follows:

candidate nominated by % votes
Viktor Yushchenko self-nominated 39.90 11,118,675
Viktor Yanukovych Party of Regions 39.26 11,008,731
Oleksandr Moroz Socialist Party of Ukraine 5.82 1,632,098
Petro Symonenko Communist Party of Ukraine 4.97 1,396,135
Nataliya Vitrenko Progressive Socialist Party of Ukraine 1.53 429,794
Anatoliy Kinakh Party of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs of Ukraine 0.93 262,530
Oleksandr Yakovenko Communist Party of Workers and Peasants 0.78 219,191
Oleksandr Omelchenko Unity Party 0.48 136,830
Leonid Chernovetsky self-nominated 0.45 129,066
Dmytro Korchynskyy self-nominated 0.17 49,961
Andriy Chornovil self-nominated 0.12 36,278
Mykola Hrabar self-nominated 0.07 19,657
Mykhaylo Brodskyy self-nominated 0.05 16,498
Yuriy Zbitnyev New Power Party 0.05 16,321
Serhiy Komisarenko self-nominated 0.04 13,754
Vasyl Volha non-governmental organization "Public Control" 0.04 12,956
Bohdan Boyko Movement of Ukrainian Patriots 0.04 12,793
Oleksandr Rzhavskyy United Family Party 0.03 10,714
Mykola Rohozhynskyy self-nominated 0.03 10,289
Vladyslav Kryvobokov People's Party of Depositors and Social Protection 0.03 9,340
Oleksandr Bazylyuk Slavic Party of Ukraine 0.03 8,963
Ihor Dushyn Liberal Democratic Party of Ukraine 0.03 8,623
Roman Kozak Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists in Ukraine 0.02 8,410
Volodymyr Nechyporuk self-nominated 0.02 6,171
Hryhoriy Chernysh Party of Rehabilitation of Infirm People withdrew
Vitaliy Kononov Party of Greens of Ukraine withdrew
None 1.98 556,963


Viktor Yushchenko (Second round) - percentage of total national vote
Viktor Yanukovych (Second round) - percentage of total national vote

Following the November 21 run-off ballot, Ukraine's electoral commission declared Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych with 49.42% of the vote the winner with Viktor Yushchenko receiving 46.69% of the ballots cast. Observers for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) said the run-off vote "did not meet international standards" and U.S. senior election observer, Senator Richard Lugar, called it a "concerted and forceful program of election day fraud."

The geographic distribution of the votes showed a clear east-west division of Ukraine, which is rooted deeply in the country's history. The western and central parts roughly correspond with the former territories of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in the 17th century. They are considered more pro-Western, with the population mostly Ukrainian-speaking and Ukrainian Greek Catholic (Uniate) in the west or Ukrainian Orthodox in the center, and have voted predominantly for Yushchenko. The heavy-industrialized eastern part, including the Autonomous Republic of Crimeanmarker, where the links with Russiamarker and the Russian Orthodox Church are much stronger, and which contains many ethnic Russians, is a Yanukovych stronghold.

Between the two rounds of the election, dramatic increases in turnout were recorded in Yanukovych-supporting regions, while Yushchenko-supporting regions recorded the same turnout or lower than recorded in the first round. This effect was most marked in eastern Ukraine and especially in Yanukovych's stronghold of Donetsk Oblast, where a turnout of 98.5% was reportedly claimed—more than 40% up from the first round. In some districts, turnout was recorded to be more than 100% then the previous ballot, with one district reported by observers to have recorded a 127% turnout. According to election observers and post-election investigations, pro-Yanukovych activists traveled around the country and voted many times as absentees. Some groups dependent on government assistance, such as students, hospital patients and prisoners, were told to vote for the government candidate.

Change in claimed turnout between the 1st and 2nd rounds of the election according to the Central Election Commission.

Many other alleged irregularities were reported, including ballot-stuffing, intimidation at voting booths and huge numbers of new voters appearing on the electoral rolls—in Donetskmarker alone, half a million more voters were registered for the runoff election. Yanukovych won all but one of the regions where significant increases in turnout were noted. It was later determined by the Ukrainian Supreme Court that this was in fact due to widespread falsification of the results.

International influence and reaction

Many commentators saw the elections as being influenced by outside powers, notably the United Statesmarker, the European Union and Russiamarker, with the US backing Yushchenko (Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski and Senator John McCain all visited Kiev, in official or private capacities), and Russian president Vladimir Putin publicly backing Yanukovych. In the media the two candidates were contrasted, with Yushchenko representing both the pro-Western Kievmarker residents as well as the rural Ukrainians, whereas Yanukovych represents the Eastern, pro-Russian industrial laborers.

More specifically it was considered that a Yushchenko victory would represent a halt of Ukraine's integration with the rest of the Commonwealth of Independent States, and possibly a cancellation of the Common Economic Space between Russia, Ukraine, Belarusmarker and Kazakhstanmarker that had already been agreed to by the Ukrainian parliament; he would instead be likely to increase attempts at further integration with Europe and a possible membership in the EU and NATO. Viktor Yanukovych had promised to make Russian an official language for Ukraine, as is also the case in other CIS member states Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstanmarker.

Russia and the CIS

Russia's President, Vladimir Putin congratulated Vikotor Yanukovych, which was followed shortly afterward by Belorussianmarker president Alexander Lukashenko, on his victory before election results were official declared CIS election observers praised the second round of the elections as "legitimate and of a nature that reflected democratic standards", a view in direct contradiction to other monitoring organizations such as the ENEMO, the Committee of Voters of Ukraine and the IEOM.

Prominent hardliners in Russia cast the election as opposition to renewed Western imperialism. Russian Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov, for example, blames the West for interfering in the situation in Ukraine in the run-up to the October 31 presidential election:

On November 28, Yuriy Luzhkov, the Mayor of Moscow, gave a speech denouncing the Ukrainian opposition, calling its members a "sabbath of witches" pretending to "represent the whole of the nation." Russian newspapers have printed increasingly shrill warnings, with the Communist party paper Pravda claiming: "NATO troops in Hungary and Poland are preparing to move, and Romanian and Slovakian military units have been put on alert. Ukrainian towns are in their sights."

Several other CIS countries lined up with Russia in supporting Yanukovych. Belarusianmarker President Alexander Lukashenko phoned Yanukovych to offer his own congratulations before the results had been officially declared. Kazakhstanmarker's President Nursultan Nazarbayev wrote to Yanukovych that "Your victory shows that the Ukrainian people have made a choice in favour of the unity of the nation, of democratic development and economic progress." The presidents of Kyrgyzstanmarker (Askar Akayev) and of Uzbekistanmarker (Islom Karimov) likewise sent their congratulations. However, later Karimov criticized Russia's involvement in the Ukrainian election, saying that "Russia’s excessive demonstration of its willingness to see a certain outcome in the vote has done more harm than good."

In contrast, the Georgianmarker president Mikhail Saakashvili indicated his support for the supporters of Yushchenko, saying that "What is happening in Ukraine today clearly attests to the importance of Georgia's example for the rest of the world." This was a reference to the Rose Revolution of late 2003. Indeed, Georgians have been highly visible in the demonstrations in Kiev and the flag of Georgia has been among those on display in the city's Independence Square, while Yushchenko himself held up a rose in a seeming reference to the Rose Revolution.

Armeniamarker and Azerbaijanmarker kept more cautious positions, supporting neither side but stressing the need for Ukrainian unity.

On December 2, one day before the Supreme Court ruled in favor of a repeat runoff ballot, President Kuchma visited Moscow to discuss the crisis with Russia's President Vladimir Putin. Putin supported Kuchma's position of desiring wholly new elections, rather than just a repeat of the second round.

European Union

The European Union made it clear that they would not recognize the results of the election. All 25 member countries of the EU summoned their ambassadors from Ukraine in order to register a sharp protest against what is seen as election fraud.

The European Union disputed the election process in Ukraine, with European Commissionmarker President José Manuel Barroso warning of consequences if there is no review of the election. During a meeting between Putin and EU officials in the Haguemarker, the Russian president opposed the EU reaction by saying that he was "deeply convinced that we have no moral right to push a big European state to any kind of massive disorder."

Among EU member states, Ukraine's western neighbors were most concerned. In Polandmarker, Ukraine's largest western neighbor, politicians, the media and ordinary citizens enthusiastically supported Yushchenko and opposed the election fraud. Polish deputies to the European Parliamentmarker have called for giving Ukraine the prospect of future EU membership provided the country obeyed democratic standards. Western EU members are however more reluctant with the idea of Ukrainian membership in the EU, which results in Polish media accusing them of being more interested in the integration process with Turkeymarker and maintaining good relations with Russia.

On November 25, former Ukrainian foreign minister and a close collaborator of Yushchenko, Borys Tarasyuk delivered a speech before the Polish Sejm, urging Poland not to recognize the election result and help solve the political crisis. On the same day former Polish President Lech Wałęsa went to Kiev to publicly express his support for Viktor Yushchenko. He was later followed by a number of Polish MPs from different parties.

On November 26 the President of Poland Aleksander Kwaśniewski arrived in Kiev, followed on the same day by the EU Minister for Foreign Affairs Javier Solana and the Lithuanian president Valdas Adamkus.

United States

The United States government also decided not to recognize the election, and expressed dissatisfaction with the results; the outgoing US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, quite unequivocally stated that the result announced could not be accepted as legitimate by the United Statesmarker. President George W. Bush and various members of Congress made statements disclosing their concern over the legitimacy of the polling. Prominent former Cold War hawk Zbigniew Brzezinski cast the election as an opposition to renewed Russian imperialismmarker:

U.S. Senators John McCain and Hillary Clinton jointly wrote a letter nominating Victor Yushchenko along with Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili for the Nobel Peace Prize. The nomination was unsuccessful.
Viktor Yushchenko (Final round) - percentage of total national vote
Viktor Yanukovych (Final round) - percentage of total national vote


The final results of the rerun ballot recorded Viktor Yushchenko receiving 52.00% of the votes, with Viktor Yanukovych on 44.19% which represented a change in the vote by +5.39% to Yushchenko and -5.27% from Yanukovych.

Viktor Yanukovych conceded defeat on December 31, 2004 and subsequently resigned as Ukraine's Prime Minister the same day. Despite Yushchenko's victory in the second round of voting, the regional voting patterns remained largely unchanged between each round, with many southern and eastern provinces supporting Yanukovych, with the west and central regions favoring Yushchenko.

Ukraine's supreme court rejected an appeal lodged by Viktor Yanukovych against the electoral commission's conduct of the election on January 6.

On January 10 the Ukrainian Electoral Commission officially declared Viktor Yushchenko the winner and on January 11 published the final election results, clearing the way for Yushchenko to be inaugurated as Ukraine's fifth President. The official ceremonies took place on Sunday, January 23 at about noon, when Yushchenko undertook the constitutional oath was sworn in as President.

In November 2009 Yanukovych stated that although is victory in the elections was "taken away" he gave up this victory in order to avoid bloodshed. "I didn't want mothers to lose their children and wives their husbands. I didn't want dead bodies from Kyivmarker to flow down the Dnipro. I didn't want to assume power through bloodshed."


  1. Dead End, Kyiv Post (October 29, 2009)
  2. Anders Åslund and Michael McFaul (January 2006). Revolution in Orange: The Origins of Ukraine's Democratic Breakthrough, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, ISBN 0-87003-221-6
  3. Virtual Politics - Faking Democracy in the Post-Soviet World, Andrew Wilson, Yale University Press, 2005, ISBN 0-300-09545-7
  4. Тіні технічних кандидатів, Ukrayinska Pravda (June 22, 2009)
  5. US campaign behind the turmoil in Kiev by Ian Traynor, The Guardian (November 26, 2004)
  7. Invisible ink: how they rigged the vote, The Sydney Morning Herald (December 2, 2004)
  8. Kvali Online Magazine
  9. The Jamestown Foundation
  10. The New York Times > International > Europe > Supporters of President-Elect in Ukraine Push Back
  11. Press elation and alarm at Ukraine events, BBC News (December 2, 2004)
  13. BBC NEWS | Europe | Ex-Soviet bloc states mull election
  14. European Parliament resolution on the forthcoming presidential elections in Ukraine, The European Parliament (October 28, 2004)
  15. Senator McCain Tells Ukrainians of Nobel Nomination for Yushchenko, Voice of America (February 5, 2005)
  16. The Nobel Peace Prize 2005, Nobel Foundation
  17. Постанова ЦВК від 10 січня 2005 року №15
  18. Yanukovych says presidential election scenario of 2004 won't be repeated in 2010, Interfax-Ukraine (November 27, 2009)

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