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Fraud Accusations In Ukrainian Election


A woman casts her ballot in Simferopol.

A woman casts her ballot in Simferopol.

As Ukrainians continue to go to the polls under a light snow, voting in Kyiv has been calm so far, with officials saying they're seeing the lowest turnout in 10 years. But the threat that allegations of fraud will disrupt the election hangs over the process.

That's why Viktor Yanukovych is keen to win decisively by pulling more than 10 percent ahead of Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko in the first round. Less than that will appear to be a victory for Tymoshenko, who will try to close the gap by gaining the support of other voters ahead of a likely second round of voting on February 7.

There have been accusations of violations across Ukraine, but so far no more than usual.

Tymoshenko's party has accused Yanukovych's pro-Moscow Party of Regions of hiring buses to shuttle groups of voters between polling stations for multiple voting. Yanukovych's party accuses Tymoshenko's people of trying to stop voters from casting their ballots at home, something Tymoshenko has warned Yushchenko would exploit to falsify the results.

A court has ruled voters may only cast their ballots at home if they show proof of a medical reason, something Interior Minister Yury Lutsenko -- who's allied with Tymoshenko -- today said would be strictly enforced with punishments of up to three years in jail for violations. But he also said voting has so far proceeded without significant incident.

Georgia has become a sideline issue in the election. Keen to show its support for Ukraine's Orange forces, pro-Western Tbilisi has sent thousands of observers to monitor the process. The election commission refused to register 2,000 of them, something President Viktor Yushchenko blamed on opposition forces.

The commission hasn’t escaped the highly partisan nature of Ukrainian officialdom. Eight of its members are said to be loyal to Yanukovych, seven to the Orange forces.

The commission says so far the vote's legitimacy isn’t under threat. Most believe both Tymoshenko and Yushchenko will probably accept today's results.

-- Gregory Feifer in Kyiv

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