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Ukraine’s Yulia Tymoshenko under pressure to concede in presidential race

Pressure swelled Monday for Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko to bow out gracefully from a hard-fought and narrowly lost presidential race.

But the calls for closure were met with silence from Tymoshenko. The politician known for her relentless drive and seemingly bottomless patience for political tussles stayed out of sight as the country waited for a concession -- or a battle cry.

Events appeared to be marching forward without her. Hundreds of supporters of her opponent, Viktor Yanukovich, celebrated his victory -- and called upon Tymoshenko to relinquish the campaign -- in a rowdy rally in central Kiev, the capital.

By late afternoon, the Central Election Commission announced that it was no longer statistically possible for Tymoshenko to win. With almost all of the votes counted, Yanukovich was leading 48.7% to 45.7%, the agency said. Most of the remaining ballots were marked “against all,” a sign of the deep dissatisfaction among some voters.

The prime minister, who is generally seen as the more pro-Western of the two candidates, also suffered several unsubtle nudges from international election observers.

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“It is now time for the country’s political leaders to listen to the people’s verdict and make sure that the country’s transition is peaceful and constructive,” said Joao Soares, president of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly and head of its observation mission.

The opinion of international monitors carries great weight in Ukraine, a country with a history of rigged voting. To mount a successful battle to overturn the outcome, Tymoshenko would almost certainly have needed some ammunition from the observers.

But they gave her little, calling the voting “an impressive display of democratic elections.”

“Normally, for the good of the nation, the one who loses shakes hands with the one who wins,” said Assen Agov, head of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization Parliamentary Assembly’s delegation of election monitors.

Yanukovich also stayed out of sight Monday after having called upon his rival to concede the night before.

“She was a strong competitor,” Yanukovich told Ukrainian television on Sunday. “It is important that she lose with dignity.”

megan.stack@latimes.com


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