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Irregularities Reported in Ukraine Elections - 2002-04-01

Many international observers and opposition politicians have criticized the Ukrainian elections, saying they were biased in favor of the government.

Many of Ukraine's 49 million citizens went to the polls on Sunday to pick their representatives for the 450 seat parliament. But some voters waited for hours without being able to cast their ballots.

Yevgeny Tsyganok, a journalist in Kiev, said many Ukrainians complained about how the vote was handled and there were reported clashes at some polling places. "As you can imagine, a person who spends two hours without [the] possibility to cast their ballot were absolutely upset," he said.

Election observers from organizations such as the Council of Europe also reported other election irregularities. The observers said some people voted twice and absentee ballots were not closely monitored, allowing for possible fraud.

Officials from the Ukrainian Election Commission say there were minor violations but nothing that would affect the results.

The head of the reformist Our Ukraine party, former Prime Minister Viktor Yushchenko, said he would challenge the results of Sunday's election in court.

Based on the early returns, it is not clear who will control the parliament.

The elections were closely watched as an early indicator of who might become the next president in two years. President Leonid Kuchma's term in office expires in 2004 and he cannot run again.

Many Western observers have criticized President Kuchma for failing to follow through on economic and political reforms. But he has maintained support in Ukraine by keeping many Soviet-era programs.