Election in Ukraine still not over

Published: Wednesday, January 12, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 11, 2005 at 11:55 p.m.
The loser of Ukraine's presidential election said Tuesday he would file massive complaints in court challenging the win by Western-leaning Viktor Yushchenko, a move that could prolong the political tensions that have dominated the country for months.
Although Yushchenko was declared the official winner on Monday, former Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych has refused to concede. He contends there was widespread fraud in the Dec. 26 revote - a mirror of the strategy Yushchenko used to gain the annulment of an earlier election in which Yanukovych was declared the winner.
Yanukovych said his allies would submit the appeal to the Supreme Court to demand "the annulment of the so-called rerun." He described the appeal as "a convincing package of evidence that would prove election fraud."
Taras Chornovyl, Yanukovych's campaign manager, said the appeal would be submitted today. The timing indicates Yanukovych could be aiming to delay Yushchenko's inauguration as long as possible.
A last-minute change of fortune for Yanukovych appeared unlikely, though. The Supreme Court on Monday rejected eight minor appeal motions from his camp.
The final official vote tally showed Yushchenko with 51.99 percent and Yanukovych with 44.2 percent, the Central Election Commission announced late Monday, formally declaring Yushchenko the victor 15 days after the balloting.
But the final results must be approved by the Supreme Court and published in two government newspapers before Yushchenko can be inaugurated, and the court said Tuesday it first must review Yanukovych's complaint.
"The Central Election Commission is ordered not to publish the election results in both official newspapers," court spokeswoman Natalia Sarapyn said.
The election was a rerun of Nov. 21 balloting in which Yanukovych was declared the winner. The Supreme Court annulled that result, after Yushchenko's camp filed appeals based on allegations of massive fraud. Hundreds of thousands of Yushchenko's supporters poured into Kiev to protest the results of the Nov. 21 vote, in which international observers complained there had been widespread instances of multiple voting.
Following a similar tactic, Yanukovych said his team would use "all legal remedies," including an "appeal to a European court, if the court does not rule favorably" after the Dec. 26 vote. He was presumably referring to the European Court for Human Rights.
Nestor Shufrich, Yanukovych's representative in the election commission, suggested the appeal to the Supreme Court would focus on an electoral reform, enacted after the Nov. 21 vote, that blocked absentee ballots and home voting - allegedly a prime source of voting abuse.
That measure was overturned by the Constitutional Court just a day before the Dec. 26 election, leaving little time for many old and ailing Ukrainians to make voting arrangements.
Hundreds of Yanukovych backers rallied Tuesday in Donetsk, his stronghold in the east, chanting anti-Yushchenko slogans and demanding the annulment of the rerun results. Chornovyl said angry supporters from the Donetsk region could pour into Kiev to protest Yushchenko's victory.
Meanwhile, European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana congratulated Yushchenko, saying it was a "strong mandate to meet the great popular expectations of the Ukrainian people."
Also offering congratulations were Pope John Paul II, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliev and Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe Secretary General Jan Kubis.
Ukraine's political tensions derive partly from an ethnic fault line between the country's east, which is heavily Russian-speaking, and the center and west, where Ukrainian nationalist spirit is strong.
Yanukovych supporters fear a Yushchenko presidency could marginalize Russian-speakers and stoke tensions with Moscow, which is Ukraine's largest trading partner and a main source of gas and oil.
Yushchenko, meanwhile, has vowed to work against the primarily eastern "clans" that control much of industry, and as president is expected to tackle corruption.

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