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Ukraine's Parliament Declares Presidential Election Invalid

There was heated debate in Ukraine's parliament Saturday, before lawmakers overwhelmingly approved a resolution declaring the disputed presidential election runoff invalid. And a newly formed working group met to try to find a way out of the political impasse, which has brought tens of thousands of opposition supporters into the streets.

Ukraine's parliament convened in the early afternoon, and quickly descended into heated debate.

Legislators met for more than four hours before adopting a non-binding resolution declaring the presidential runoff vote invalid, saying the balloting did not reflect the intention of voters. Legislators also expressed no confidence in Ukraine's Central Election Commission, which had declared pro-Russian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych the victor.

According to Ukraine's Constitution, any decision about holding a new election would have to come from the Supreme Court, which is expected to rule on Monday.

Supporters of opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko say parliament's declaration is a victory.

Pro-government supporters of Prime Minister Yanukovych called the vote "criminal," and said it violates Ukraine's Constitution.

Parallel efforts to end the crisis are under way in a newly-formed working group, created during talks Friday night involving European mediators, outgoing President Kuchma and the rival presidential candidates.

The secretary-general of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Jan Kubis, tells VOA he is hopeful the working group will be successful.

"What is expected is not only that they are starting today, but that they will deliver some results very quickly, in a matter of one, two days, because the fact that these political negotiations, consultations, that they have started does not mean this is an exercise, which could or should last for weeks," he said. "It is not. Simply, the dynamics of the development will not allow this."

Mr. Kubis says one of the main questions before the working group representatives from the opposing sides is whether they support holding a re-run of the presidential election.

"It is for them to come to an agreement, of course," he said. "But, if they would wish to have it, how they would wish to have it, because there are many options. But I can confirm that, whatever would be the agreement, and if there is indeed an understanding to go ahead with any sort of election exercise, the OSCE, in my own personal conviction, would be more than prepared to support the process."

Meanwhile, supporters of pro-Western challenger Yushchenko demonstrated for a sixth day in the streets of Kiev. This protester says he very much hopes there will be new elections.

"We need re-election, because we need to have new legal power," he said. "Legal [means] to keep the country together, because some regions have started to initialize separation from Ukraine. It is quite serious. And we need a new legal power. Only in this case, we would be really successful."

He and other protesters were able to keep up with the developments in parliament thanks to a live audio feed onto the main square. Thousands of people huddled together near the loudspeakers to hear the live debate from the floor of Ukraine's parliament, the Rada.

Others thronged from Kiev's central Independence Square to parliament to the cadence of drums.

Many protesters say they expect it to be another night of little sleep, as all Ukraine watches and waits to see if the talks lead to a resolution of the week-old standoff.