On January 15th, I offered my predictions for Ukraine’s January 17th presidential vote. All in all, they held up quite well. 

As I noted then, they were made based on internal polling conducted by the leading campaigns in the last two weeks, incorporation of trends and a little bit of guess work. But above all it suggested that the campaigns had a good handle on what was likely to occur in the days before the actual vote.

Overall, I predicted all the results to within roughly 1 percent of the actual result.  And the 9.5 percent gap between opposition challenger Viktor Yanukovych and Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko that I posited was actually 10.4 percent, so I was again off by less that a percentage point.

Ukraine Presidential Elections First Round:

My Predictions:                           Actual Results with 99.3 percent             Differential:                                                   of the vote counted

Yanukovych 34.0                               35.4                                                  1.4
Tymoshenko 24.5                              25.0                                                  0.5
Tyhypko 12.5                                     13.0                                                  0.5
Yatseniuk 6.5                                       7.0                                                  0.5

Yushchenko 5.5                                   5.5                                                  0
Symonenko 4.0                                    3.5                                                  0.5

Lytvyn 3.5                                            2.3                                                  1.2

Tyahnybok 2.0                                     1.4                                                  0.6

Hrytsenko 1.0                                      1.2                                                  0.2
Others/Against Everyone 6.5               5.7                                                  0.8           

It is too early to predict what will happen in round two. However, one thing is clear: Viktor Yanukovych enters the second round with a major advantage.

If you remove the likely 3-4 percent of voters who will spoil their ballots or vote against everyone, that leaves roughly 36 percent of the vote in contention between Tymoshenko and Yanukovych. Of these, Tymoshenko will need to capture roughly 23 percent–or nearly two out of every three — to overtake Yanukovych’s lead. Please keep in mind that many of those voters located in Eastern and Southern Ukraine, where Tymoshenko has not done well. Add to that the fact that some of her potential electorate in Western Ukraine backed Tymoshenko’s bitter rival,  President Yushchenko and, so, is unlikely to vote.

Bottom line: Tymoshenko has very long–though not yet impossible– odds to succeed. Indeed, only her amazing skills as a campaigner leave open the possibility she could score a second round upset.

More on the implications of the first round vote  and the likely direction of the second round in a future post.

Adrian Karatnycky, an Atlantic Council nonresident senior fellow, is Managing Partner at the Myrmidon Group LLC and co-director and co-founder of the Ukrainian-Jewish encounter.

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