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Ukraine PM to Challenge Presidential Election Results

  • Stefan Bos

Ukraine's Central Election Commission says it will no investigate allegations of vote rigging from the February 7 ballot

Ukrainian election officials say they will not consider Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko's complaints of presidential election fraud. Opposition leader Victor Yanukovich defeated Ms. Tymoshenko by 3.5 percentage points in the February 7 runoff election. Voters have mixed feelings about Ms. Tymoshenko's attempts to win the presidency.

The ruling by Ukraine's Central Election Commission to not investigate allegations of vote rigging is a setback for pro-Western Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko's campaign to challenge the results of the February 7 ballot.

Ms. Tymoshenko said in a televised appeal to the nation Saturday she is convinced her rival, Victor Yanukovich, who seeks closer ties with neighboring Russia, had not won the presidential election.

She stressed she would challenge the results in court.

Prime Minister Tymoshenko says "Ukraine's election was falsified." It is not a political declaration, she adds, but the legal assessment of lawyers. She says there were likely more than one-million fraudulent votes; the difference between losing and victory.

The prime minister has pledged not to call for street protests similar to those of the 2004 Orange Revolution, which broke out after alleged election fraud.

Ms. Tymoshenko says "Ukraine does not need more public strife" but "stability and peace." That is why she says she will only defend the voter's choice in court. The prime minister makes clear that whatever the outcome of that legal battle, Mr. Yanukovich is, in her view, "not the democratically elected president of Ukraine."

But even in Ms. Tymoshenko's political stronghold of Western Ukraine voters have mixed feelings about her attempts to become president.

In the border town of Uzzhorod residents watch electronic billboards, but few can buy the promoted products, as the country faces its deepest recession in recent memory. Voters also complain about rampant corruption among local authorities.

There is a lack of regular running water in several areas, while doctors at the local hospital admit they do not always provide blood to patients that is tested for the HIV virus that causes AIDS.

These social problems also existed before Ms. Tymoshenko and her allies launched the Orange Revolution, in which they pledged reforms and prosperity. Now five years, later Nadija Prijma regrets that she and her husband returned from neighboring Slovakia, where she was a baby sitter and cleaned homes while her husband worked in the construction business.

She says when the Orange Revolution began, they decided to return to Ukraine. It is something they now deeply regret, because, she says, "the promises of the Orange Revolution were not kept."

The apparently victorious Mr. Yanukovich has pledged to tackle corruption and improve living standards, but not everyone is convinced, including student Andrej Suran, 23.

"I know that in his staff are a lot of very good specialists, bBut his politics and pro-Russian orientation, I do not like that," he said. "I do not think that all things that he told to our people is really the truth. So I think that he is not very good for our country."

There is also international concern that a long post-election battle may worsen Ukraine's economic outlook and delay the release of more than $16 billion in emergency assistance from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Analysts say the country needs to adopt the 2010 budget to resume cooperation with the IMF and pay for natural gas imports from Russia.

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