- Wikipedia: Orange Revolution
The 2004 presidential election in Ukraine eventually featured two main candidates:
- sitting Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, largely supported by Leonid Kuchma (the outgoing President of Ukraine who had already served two terms in office from 1994 and was precluded from running himself due to the constitutional term limits)
- the opposition candidate Viktor Yushchenko, leader of the Our Ukraine faction in the Ukrainian parliament and a former Prime Minister (in office 1999–2001)
The election took place in a highly charged atmosphere, with the Yanukovych team and the outgoing president’s administration using their control of the government and state apparatus for intimidation of Yushchenko and his supporters.
In September 2004 Yushchenko suffered dioxin poisoning under mysterious circumstances. While he survived and returned to the campaign trail, the poisoning undermined his health and altered his appearance dramatically (his face remains disfigured by the consequences to this day).
The two main candidates were neck and neck in the first-round vote held on 31 October 2004, winning 39.32% (Yanukovych) and 39.87% (Yushchenko) of the vote casts. The candidates who came third and fourth collected much less: Oleksandr Moroz of the Socialist Party of Ukraine and Petro Symonenko of the Communist Party of Ukraine received 5.82% and 4.97%, respectively.
Since no candidate had won more than 50% of the cast ballots, Ukrainian law mandated a run-off vote between two leading candidates. After the announcement of the run-off, Oleksandr Moroz threw his support behind Viktor Yushchenko. The Progressive Socialist Party’s Natalia Vitrenko, who won 1.53% of the vote, endorsed Yanukovych, who hoped for Petro Simonenko’s endorsement but did not receive it.
In the wake of the first round of the election, many complaints emerged regarding voting irregularities in favour of the government-supported Yanukovych. However, as it was clear that neither nominee was close enough to collecting an outright majority in the first round, challenging the initial result would not have affected the final outcome of the round. So the complaints were not actively pursued and both candidates concentrated on the upcoming run-off, scheduled for 21 November.
Pora! activists were arrested in October 2004, but the release of many (reportedly on President Kuchma’s personal order) gave growing confidence to the opposition.
Yushchenko’s supporters originally adopted orange as the signifying colour of his election campaign. Later, the colour gave its name to an entire series of political labels, such as the Oranges (Pomaranchevi in Ukrainian) for his political camp and its supporters. At the time when the mass protests grew, and especially when they brought about political change in the country, the term Orange Revolution came to represent the entire series of events.
On 3 December 2004, Ukraine’s Supreme Court finally broke the political deadlock. The court decided that due to the scale of the electoral fraud it became impossible to establish the election results. Therefore, it invalidated the official results that would have given Yanukovych the presidency. As a resolution, the court ordered a revote of the run-off to be held on 26 December 2004.
This decision was seen as a victory for the Yushchenko camp while Yanukovych and his supporters favoured a rerun of the entire election rather than just the run-off, as a second-best option if Yanukovych was not awarded the presidency.
On 8 December 2004 the parliament amended laws to provide a legal framework for the new round of elections. The parliament also approved the changes to the Constitution, implementing a political reform backed by outgoing President Kuchma as a part of a political compromise between the acting authorities and opposition.
The 26 December revote was held under intense scrutiny of local and international observers. The preliminary results, announced by the Central Election Commission on 28 December, gave Yushchenko and Yanukovych 51.99% and 44.20% of the total vote which represented a change in the vote by +5.39% to Yushchenko and −5.27% from Yanukovych respectively when compared to the November poll.
The Yanukovych team attempted to mount a fierce legal challenge to the election results using both the Ukrainian courts and the Election Commission complaint procedures. However, all their complaints were dismissed as without merit by both the Supreme Court of Ukraine and the Central Election Commission.
On 10 January 2005 the Election Commission officially declared Yushchenko as the winner of the presidential election