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The chestnut revolution

Running repairs: Ukrainian presidential
candidate Viktor Yanukovich is
unpopular but is backed by the political
establishment which has thrown the
government's resources behind him

Ukraine was evenly divided ahead of presidential elections on October 31 as leading opposition candidate and liberal reformer Viktor Yushchenko faced off with the establishment's candidate, prime minister Viktor Yanukovich. Campaigning has been dirty and the threat of riots will hang over Kiev if the opposition feels it has been cheated out of an election victory that could shake up the balance of power and define foreign policy after a decade of dithering between turning east or west. The stakes are high: the two candidates were running neck and neck on the eve of the vote and Ukraine is the only former Soviet republic that can boast a grassroots political opposition.

Both camps have everything to lose. After two terms, president Leonid Kuchma must stand down, but Yanukovich, his choice of successor, is deeply unpopular. He faces Yushchenko, also a former prime minister, in 2000, who is now a sworn enemy of Kuchma after the two fell out.

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