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Ukraine calls partial re-vote amid fraud protests

07 november 2012, 10:25
Election officials in Ukraine on Monday called a re-vote in five districts as thousands of people protested in central Kiev against alleged fraud in parliamentary elections won by the ruling party, AFP reports.

The central election commission told parliament to set a date for new polls in the five districts, saying in a statement cited by the Interfax news agency that it was impossible to conclusively establish the outcome there because of numerous irregularities in the October 28 polls.

But opposition leaders, who are contesting the vote in a dozen or so districts where they say it was rigged for President Viktor Yanukovych's Regions Party, vowed to go to court to have their candidates declared the rightful winners without a new vote.

The court case will deal with "districts where we have indisputable proof our candidates won", said opposition leader Arseniy Yatsenyuk, quoted by Interfax.

At least 2,000 opposition supporters carrying Ukrainian flags gathered outside the headquarters of the election commission Monday amid a heavy presence of elite Berkut anti-riot police.

Political tensions have surged in Ukraine as the authorities have still failed to publish final results from the elections more than a week after voting finished.

Commentators expect the Regions Party to take a wafer-thin majority in the new Verkhovna Rada despite a strong challenge from the opposition led by jailed former premier Yulia Tymoshenko.

Tymoshenko's Fatherland party said in a statement it was "ready to declare" the new Rada invalid unless the authorities "stopped the falsification of the electoral process".

Its threat has been backed by the other main opposition parties, the nationalist Svoboda (Freedom) movement and the UDAR party of boxer Vitali Klitschko, which has threatened not to take up its seats in parliament.

Yatsenyuk, the leader of the Fatherland coalition in the absence of the jailed Tymoshenko, accused the Regions Party of "stealing the votes of Ukrainians and changing the results in favour of its candidates".

The firebrand leader of Svoboda, Oleg Tyagnybok, meanwhile said that the authorities were "spitting on the choice of Ukrainians".

A small change in the number of seats won could make a huge difference as the Regions Party is expected to only find a slim majority with the help of loyal independent lawmakers.

Tyagnybok vowed that the protest would be "open-ended" even though a court had earlier declared any protest action illegal in central Kiev until November 12.

Asked by reporters about fears that the police would disperse the protest, Yatsenyuk replied: "Let them try to send the Berkut with their truncheons."

According to results based on a 99.95-percent vote count, the Regions Party won 30 percent of the popular vote, Fatherland 26, UDAR 14, the Communists 13 and Svoboda 10.

Half of the seats in the Rada are determined on a proportional basis and the other half on first-past-the post single mandate constituencies.

The election commission has still not projected the allocation of seats in the new parliament due to the lack of final results.

According to a report by the Ukrainska Pravda news site before the re-vote was announced, the Regions Party was on track to win 187 seats, Fatherland 102, UDAR 40, Svoboda 38 and the Communists 32 with independents picking up a crucial 44 seats.

The European Union's top diplomat Catherine Ashton and EU Commissioner for Enlargement Stefan Fule had expressed alarm on Saturday about the failure to publish final results so long after voting took place.

"Complaints should be dealt with swiftly and in full respect of rules and established procedures," the statement said.

OSCE observers have already expressed concern that the elections were a step backwards for Ukraine, a country seen as one of the most democratic in the former Soviet Union after the 2004 Orange Revolution uprising.

The observers argued that the election was skewed from the start by the jailing of Tymoshenko in an abuse of power case that the West fears is an act of revenge by Yanukovych against his old political rival.

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