Ukraine’s embattled prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko today appeared in public for the first time in days, but still resisted calls to concede defeat in the presidential election and resign her post.
Ms Tymoshenko, looking tense but determined, appeared before the media for the first time since Sunday’s election to chair a government meeting.
She did not comment on the elections directly but took a swipe at the pro-Russian opposition leader Viktor Yanukovych, who defeated her by a margin of 3.5% according to the final preliminary vote count.
Her refusal to admit defeat signals that she is digging in for a long power struggle with Mr Yanukovych.
“It is already obvious today that nobody from Yanukovych’s team has any intention of raising social standards,” Ms Tymoshenko told the government meeting. “Already, after the election, we are starting to discover huge pre-election deceptions and people should factor that into their future political calculations.”
Mr Yanukovych’s victory was a repudiation of the 2004 Orange Revolution, when Ms Tymoshenko and the outgoing President Viktor Yushchenko led weeks of mass demonstrations against the rigged election won by Mr Yanukovych.
The Supreme Court eventually ordered a re-vote, which Mr Yushchenko won, unseating Mr Yanukovych and pushing him into the opposition.
But Mr Yanukovych has capitalised on the vicious antagonism between Mr Yushchenko and Ms Tymoshenko that ensued soon after they took power. Their bickering has often paralysed the government over the past five years and prevented the Orange leaders from staving off an economic collapse last year.
Mr Yanukovych’s Party of Regions is now attempting to form a new coalition in parliament.
Thousands of his supporters continued to rally outside the Central Election Commission today in an attempt to forestall any attempt by Ms Tymoshenko to call her own supporters into the streets. It is not clear that many would follow that call by Ms Tymoshenko.
“I came to the (2004) demonstrations. But that won’t happen again,” Stanislav Krasnov, a 52-year-old security guard, said. “No-one will come out on to the streets for her now. She’d be standing here by herself.”
Analysts say Ms Tymoshenko’s strategy now appears aimed at undermining Mr Yanukovych’s attempts to consolidate power and enact legislation.