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Potential Ukrainian Election Flaws Identified

Ukrainians cast their ballots in a special parliamentary election, in which domestic and international observers sought to assure an honest vote. Opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko says she will ask President Viktor Yushchenko to let her form a new government, after an exit poll from Sunday's election shows opposition parties will likely control parliament. VOA Correspondent Peter Fedynsky spoke with several election monitors and precinct workers who identified some potential flaws in the Ukrainian election process.

Voters at election Precinct 77 in downtown Kyiv include such local residents as former President Leonid Kuchma, composer Alexander Zlotnik and former Prime Minister Valeriy Pustovoitenko. Like most precincts throughout Ukraine, its workers included representatives from each of the country's major political parties to help keep the other side honest.

Precinct Director Hanna Mazmaniam says numerous international observers were also present.

Mazmaniam says visitors included journalists, monitors from Russia, the United States, and the Baltic states.

Oleg Mushenko, a Russian election monitor, has been observing Ukrainian elections since 2003. He says voters and the voting process in Ukraine have matured. Mushenko says campaign advertising in this country is not as aggressive as before and notes that Ukrainians are voting in a conscientious manner.

Mushenko says Ukrainian voters today cast informed votes and are not influenced by momentary events such as mass demonstrations (on Independence Square) or campaign activities designed to draw votes.

At Precinct 99 in a working class neighborhood of Kyiv, Swedish parliamentarian Tone Tingsgaerd, concurred with the Russian observer about the increasingly routine nature of precinct voting in Ukraine.

But Tingsgaerd says she is concerned about what happens between the time a ballot is cast and the time it is counted.

"It should be very easy for everyone here to do that," said Tone Tingsgaerd. "If you have been to a polling station you know, 'I was there, I voted for that and that, I know the result at the polling station. I would like to see that now. Where can I find it?' And this we do not have, in this country or any other of the developing democracies."

Tingsgaerd says exit polls could warn of potential fraud, if the final vote count differs substantially from the polls.

But the director of Polling Station 99, Vasyl Shepel, warns that Ukrainian exit polls could be manipulated by those behind them.

Exit polls in Ukraine, says Shepel, reflect what is transmitted to the people. And transmission occurs through the press and television, many of which are in the hands of major political parties.

Several of those parties have indicated readiness to protest Sunday's election if the difference between exit polls and the final tally looks suspicious. Precinct Director Shepel said it may take several days to count ballots in rural areas of Ukraine, which could delay the final result.