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Ukraine's Prime Minister Challenges Presidential Re-Run Results


Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, who had his earlier election win annulled, is contesting the latest results of the weekend presidential re-run in Ukraine. The appeal means final certification of the official results will be delayed, prolonging the nations bitter electoral stand-off.

Ukraine's Central Election Commission confirms that Prime Minister Yanukovych has filed an appeal over the complete preliminary results of the re-run in all districts, citing massive voter manipulation and fraud.

Local news reports in Kiev broadcast pictures of Mr. Yanukovych and his top aides filing the appeal with the Central Election Commission, which now has two days to examine his claims. If it rejects the claims, discounted by thousands of international election observers, he will next have to file with Ukraine's Supreme Court.

Mr. Yanukovych has refused to concede and vows he will exhaust every legal remedy taken by his rival, opposition candidate Viktor Yushchenko, following the first re-run which was declared riddled with fraud. A Yanukovych spokesman says it will be, deja-vu for the election commission, the Supreme Court and the Ukrainian people."

But many analysts doubt Mr. Yanukovych will be able to mount an effective legal challenge in the face of such a wide margin of victory for the opposition candidate. The results, which have yet to be certified, give the pro-reform-minded Yushchenko an 11-point lead over Mr. Yanukovych, who called for continued strong ties to Russia.

Mr. Yushchenko asked tens-of-thousands of his supporters massed on Kiev's Central Independence Square late Tuesday, how it was possible that a government that had been voted out of favor could refuse to go in reference to the Ukrainian parliaments vote of no-confidence against the Yanukovych government earlier this month. Mr. Yushchenko said a planned cabinet meeting Wednesday by his rival was illegal, and he urged his supporters to resume their blockade of government buildings.

Opposition supporters heeded his call early Wednesday, forming a human chain along the narrow streets outside the cabinet ministry building. But unlike earlier blockades in the Ukrainian capital, many government workers were allowed to enter the building. Several hours later, a Yanukovych spokesperson declared the meeting cancelled, without further comment.

Meanwhile, hundreds of people camped out in central Kiev for the past month, will be packing up their tents in order to make way for upcoming New Years and inaugural festivities. But the protesters say they will return to the square, if political events turn against Mr. Yushchenko.

By long-standing tradition, Friday's New Years Eve festivities bring with them an address by the president. And the question on the minds of many Ukrainians is just who will be addressing them - outgoing president Kuchma or the apparent winner of the latest poll, Mr. Yushchenko.