Accessibility links

New Election Process in Ukraine May Change Outcome


Ukrainian opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko will run against Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych in a repeat run-off presidential election scheduled for December 26.

Mr. Yushchenko's supporters have ended their daily protests now that their demand for a new election has been met. They believe that massive vote fraud gave the first run-off to Mr. Yanukovych. The opposition has also won changes in the electoral law intended to combat fraud.

It's 7:30 in the evening and the government-controlled TV Network 1+1 begins its evening newscast from Kiev. The top story: the recent election law reforms passed by parliament. And, opposition candidate Viktor Yushchenko's name and picture are featured prominently.

But according to Alexander Rodnyansky, founder and co-chairman of the board at 1+1, it wasn't long ago that would never have happened. "There always were a lot of examples. First of all the silence. Yushchenko did not appear on the air for a long time - several months. He was a subject, a topic that was forbidden to be mentioned," he said.

Ukraine's government controlled media has opened up dramatically since the beginning of the protests several weeks ago. It is one of many changes in Ukraine, and one that will be noticed in the provinces in the east that generally support the other candidate in the run-off, Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych.

Mr. Rodnyansky added, "It's a big difference. I'm absolutely convinced that during the upcoming portion of the presidential campaign, before the third round of the election, the viewers in Donetsk, Kharkiv and Dniepropetrovsk will not only get an opportunity to see and hear Yushchenko. I expect they will get a chance to compare the positions of both candidates."

But it is recent procedural changes to the election process itself that are expected to have the most impact. Igor Popov is chairman of The Committee of Voters of Ukraine, a democratic rights organization. He says the most important change is in the election commission, widely believed to be involved with fraud in the last round. "The majority of them are the same people, but now they have come through the same procedure in parliament again and that is their last chance to stay in this commission for seven years, to have a good job and not come under crime investigation," said Mr. Popov.

In another change passed by the Parliament, the campaigns will get voter lists four days in advance. And vote tallies will be sent both electronically and by telegraph from the regions.

Yuri Klyuchkovsky, legal council for Victor Yushchenko, says there were many problems with voter lists. "There were five problems. First of all, compiling voter lists, since in the previous election there were a lot of difficulties and errors with the voter lists." He added, " A lot of people were included illegally. Most of the people agree it was not done legally. The were a lot of so-called 'dead souls,' namely, people that do not actually exist."

A big question is how to entice the thousands of election observers to Ukraine on election day, which happens to be the day after Christmas.

Dianna Derhak, an American of Ukrainian heritage living in Kiev, was an election observer in the last round. Thousands of observers have pledged to go, but organizers are concerned that they won't all show up.

Ms. Derhak expressed her worry and hope. "December 25th is Christmas. A lot of people are not going to want to spend their Christmas holiday in an eastern province of Ukraine or an eastern oblast of Ukraine. So the message to people is give the gift of democracy. Give that gift, not just to Ukraine, but what Ukraine is opening up for this entire part of the world."

XS
SM
MD
LG