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Ukraine: EU Says Ukrainian Election 'Fraud' Must Be Rectified

The European Union's foreign policy chief Javier Solana today repeated the bloc's assessment earlier this week that last weekend's presidential elections in Ukraine was "fraudulent." He told the European Parliament's foreign affairs committee that Ukrainian authorities must take measures to rectify the abuse that have allowed the country's Central Election Commission (TsVK) to declare Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych the winner. Solana, as well as a number of deputies in the parliament, acknowledged that the EU view is contested by Russia.

Brussels, 24 November 2004 (RFE/RL) -- Javier Solana, the chief EU foreign and security policy coordinator, today explained what the bloc's foreign ministers meant on 22 November when they called on Ukrainian authorities to "review" the results of the second round of the presidential elections.

Speaking before a European Parliament standing committee, he said recourse must be taken to "procedures" laid out under Ukrainian law for suspected electoral fraud and abuse.

"In this process, and under the Ukrainian legislation, there are legal procedures to address suspected cases of electoral fraud," Solana said. "When the European Union [on 22 November] called on Ukrainian authorities to review the electoral process and results, it was precisely the need to make use of the procedures envisaged in Ukrainian legislation."

Solana said this will be essential to the future president's democratic legitimacy.

The Ukrainian electoral commission has provisionally declared Yanukovych the winner, although some exit polls showed opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko as leading the vote.

Solana expressed faith in the independence in the country's judicial system. He said after the first round of the elections last month, the Ukrainian courts had tackled opposition complaints in a "professional and independent way." Solana said Yushchenko's team has already launched at least 6,500 separate complaints after the second round.
"I think there should be a full investigation of the regions where these [turnout] figures are very suspicious, a recount." -- Charles Tannock, deputy head of the European Parliament's delegation for Ukraine

The deputy head of the European Parliament's delegation for Ukraine, Charles Tannock, said today that incumbent President Leonid Kuchma must dismiss the chairman of the Central Election Commission. He said the chairman has "clearly not been above board" in his dealings.

Tannock cited "unrealistic" turnout figures -- in some parts of the country exceeding 100 percent. He added that they were "reminiscent of Saddam Hussein's referenda." He said widespread intimidation had taken place, as well as abuses of absentee ballots, ballot stuffing, out-of-area voting, and misuse of mobile polling stations.

"I think there should be a full investigation of the regions where these [turnout] figures are very suspicious, a recount, there should be prosecution of all those who participated in electoral fraud, and the results should be annulled in areas where they are not up to Western and international democratic standards," Tannock said.

Solana expressed displeasure at the way Russian President Vladimir Putin, shortly after the vote, recognized Yanukovych as the winner, although Putin later retracted this.

Solana said the EU and Russia appear to be fundamentally at odds over Ukraine.

"While the Russian Federation has openly supported one of the candidates, the European Union's concern has been more about the realization of democratic standards manifested by transparent procedures and legal recourse," Solana said.

Many deputies of the European Parliament have openly cast events in Ukraine as a power struggle between the West and Russia over the long-term future of Ukraine.

Tannock said in his speech that the Ukrainian people had a clear choice between what he called a pro-Western reformist and a candidate who was strongly backed by Russia.

However, Solana and a number of other recognized that Ukraine is "divided." Solana said that while the EU will not accept "fraudulent" results, it also wants to encourage dialogue between the two camps.

"But we have a second problem that will be with us, which is that Ukraine is very profoundly divided and we must do the utmost so that the country is able to rally together and not have this profound division that we have seen not only in the elections [now] but also in a long period of time," Solana said.

Solana said the coming days will be crucial for Ukraine and its relations with the EU. Deputies at the European Parliament said it may call an extraordinary session next week to discuss Ukraine.

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