Two key members of Ukraine's Central Elections Commission [CEC] say a partial re-vote may be needed in key districts to determine who won parliamentary seats in Sunday's controversial elections.
Comments from CEC chair Mikhail Okhendovsky and deputy Zhanna Usenko-Chorna, reported Friday in local media, come as opposition accusations of vote-stealing by the ruling party of President Viktor Yanukovych swirl across Ukraine's political landscape.
The Kyiv Post quotes Usenko-Chorna as saying there are several dozen constituencies where it is "impossible" to calculate accurate results. Okhendovsky told local reporters his commission will make an "appropriate" ruling on any recounts, but he did not say when a decision would be made.
The CEC comments are the first public indication that the government itself is questioning vote counting in Sunday's polls. Unofficial tallies show President Yanukovych's ruling party leading with slightly more than 30 percent of the vote. The United Opposition Fatherland party of jailed former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko was running second with 25.4 percent.
Late Thursday, riot police in in the southern city of Pervomaisk fired tear gas to disperse protesters angered by rumors of vote-counting irregularities.
Tymoshenko, in custody at a hospital in northeastern Ukraine, is refusing to end a hunger strike launched to protest alleged widespread voting rigging. Her protest came just days after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the election controversy "a step backward" for the nation's democracy.
The 51-year-old Tymoshenko was charged last year with abuse of the office of prime minister for her approval of a 2009 natural gas import deal with Russia. She was found guilty and is serving a seven-year prison term that has drawn protests from a host of Western governments and human rights groups.
Earlier this week, the United States renewed charges that the Tymoshenko conviction was politically motivated. Friday, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Melia told a Washington audience that Ukraine's election campaign raised "deep concerns" about violations of democratic norms. He also said voting and tabulation procedures on election day itself "appear to be marred by fraud and falsification."