TV news report transcript
Democracy is being put to the test in Ukraine this week. The country is divided over who is the legitimate winner in the presidential runoff election. Ukrainian election officials had declared Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych the winner against opposition candidate Viktor Yushchenko.
But since the election, the capital city, Kiev, has been the primary center of massive demonstrations, mainly in support Mr. Yushchenko. There has been a blockade of government buildings.
Parliament has voted to dismiss the prime minister’s government, which he has rejected. The turmoil was triggered by allegations of widespread voter fraud, which have been supported by eyewitness accounts of international election monitors. Amy Katz has more on the charges behind this Ukrainian political turmoil.
It was always going to be an important vote. When Ukrainians went to the polls on November 21st to cast their ballots in the runoff presidential election -- between incumbent Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych and opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko -- the race was very close.
But no one knew what would follow – the declaration of Mr. Yanukovych as the winner by a small margin – quickly followed by opposition claims of widespread fraud and huge demonstrations in protest. International election monitors -- who were sent to Ukraine to observe -- agreed with the opposition. Lenna Koszarny was one of them.
“I didn’t expect to see what I saw. I expected to go out and do our duties and be there more as prevention. I didn’t think that we would actually be able to videotape and photograph and document the kinds of violations we saw.”
Kiev's Channel 5 aired this video. The station says it is evidence of election irregularities. It appears to show opposition supporters being beaten, completed paper ballots being duplicated, paper ballots in a wastebasket and votes being counted improperly.
Anders Aslund is the director of the Russian and Eurasian program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, D.C.
“It was obviously fraudulent. And we can also say that Viktor Yushchenko -- the opposition candidate -- won the election because there was such massive ballot stuffing in the east of the country where Viktor Yanukovych won. So we can say those votes that were disproportionately added would swing the election by five, six percent.”
Another monitor – who worked with Lenna Koszarny and another observer in Crimea – says signs of flagrant cheating were everywhere.
“The three of us found hundreds of violations without knowing all of the mechanisms that people would be using to commit voter fraud.”
He and his colleagues were able to videotape much of what they found. This tape shows people boarding buses to be ferried from polling place to polling place -- so they could cast multiple ballots.
Anders Aslund says that is not unusual.
“You can say that most of the elections have been fraudulent and the worst situation has been in the Donetsk region from where Viktor Yanukovych comes.”
At a recent Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty briefing in Washington, D.C., Orest Deychakiwsky, a staff advisor to the U.S. Commission to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, discussed what he and his colleagues found.
“OSCE concluded that the elections, quote, ...did not meet a number of OSCE standards, commitments and Council of Europe and other European standards for democratic elections and asserted that overall the state executive authorities and the CEC – the Central Election Commission -- displayed a lack of will to conduct a genuine democratic election process."
But it seems a large number of Ukrainians do want a truly democratic election. And hundreds of thousands of them have taken to the streets to demand it. Mr. Aslund cited a recent Ukrainian public opinion poll showing that if a new election were held soon, opposition candidate Viktor Yushchenko would definitely win.