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Ukraine Still Awaits Court Decision on Election Dispute

Ukraine is still waiting for a Supreme Court decision on the issue of fraud in the November 21 presidential runoff election, as the two sides in the dispute continue a battle of wills about how to resolve it. A new election appears likely, but the exact form it will take remains unknown. Tens of thousands of opposition supporters remain in position in the center of Ukraine's capital, Kiev to, as they put it, "keep up the pressure on the authorities" in anticipation of the court's ruling. With both sides now saying fraud was committed in the runoff election, the issue of how to organize another vote is the main debating point.

Opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko says he wants to hold a new runoff between himself and Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, who was declared the winner by the electoral commission.

But President Leonid Kuchma insists an entirely new election is necessary involving more candidates.

Analysts say this would allow him more time to find a new, more charismatic candidate than Mr. Yanukovych and effectively keep Mr. Yushchenko from taking office.

Mr. Kuchma has also proposed handing interim power to parliament, signaling his willingness to bypass Mr. Yanukovych after parliament passed a motion of no-confidence in the prime minister on Wednesday.

Mr. Kuchma received a boost on Thursday when he flew to Moscow for a hastily-arranged meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who praised the Ukrainian leader's handling of the crisis and criticized the idea of holding a new runoff vote.

Back in Kiev Mr. Yushchenko quickly criticized this move, given the sensitivities in Ukraine about Russia's involvement in the dispute.

Mr. Putin openly backed Mr. Yanukovych long before the controversial runoff was held and has criticized the opposition's taking to the streets as an attempt to "seize power by using crowds."

Mr. Yushchenko wants to maintain the momentum he senses is now in his favor, and on Thursday insisted that a date be set quickly for a new runoff vote, and has proposed either December 19 or 26.

The European Union also suggests that a new election be held, and soon. EU Foreign Policy chief Javier Solana has offered to return to Kiev next week for a third round of talks involving the presidents of Poland, Lithuania and the speaker of Russia's parliament.

President Bush also weighed in on Thursday, saying the United States supports holding a new election in Ukraine that supports the will of its people.