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Ukraine: Protests Continue After Parliament Rejects Vote

The opposition's protest appears to be growing (file photo) The Ukrainian parliament's decision to declare invalid the results of the country's 21 November presidential election has given momentum to the opposition's hopes for a new vote. Representatives of the rival candidates discussed that possibility today in Kyiv.

Prague, 28 November 2004 (RFE/RL) -- Ukrainian opposition supporters continued to jam the streets of downtown Kyiv today with calls to rerun the country's presidential vote.

One week after the runoff ballot, tens of thousands of supporters of opposition candidate Viktor Yushchenko continue to face freezing temperatures as they demonstrate against official results showing Russian-backed Prime Minister Viktor Vanukovych as the winner. The opposition rally appears to be growing in size despite the cold weather.

The mood at the main rally in Kyiv's central Independence Square was festive. The public-address system used by opposition organizers was playing pop and rock songs recorded by Ukrainian musicians who support Yushchenko:

Orthodox Christian priests also took to the stage at Independence Square to conduct religious services for the opposition crowd. Thousands of people also were milling about the massive tent city that has been erected near the demonstrations.
Parliament also passed a vote of no confidence in the Central Election Commission that declared Vanukovych the winner.

The Ukrainian parliament's declaration yesterday that the vote was invalid won support from 255 of the 429 legislators present. Significantly, the parliament also passed a vote of no confidence in the Central Election Commission that declared Vanukovych the winner.

Although the resolution is nonbinding, it has increased hope among Yushchenko's supporters that the final round of the election might be conducted again.

Attention also is focusing on Ukraine's Supreme Court. It is due tomorrow to consider an appeal from Yushchenko against the official election results.

The Russian government has hinted that it may be willing to accept a rerun of the ballot's final round. For the past week, Moscow has rejected the view of international observers that the Ukrainian vote was flawed. Russian President Vladimir Putin had backed Yanukovych during the election campaign and already has recognized him as the winner.

The European Union and the United States have refused to recognize the results. They are backing Yushchenko's demand for a fresh vote.

Ukraine's President Leonid Kuchma met today with the country's security and defense council to discuss the political crisis. But a statement from Kuchma's office said Yanukovych did not attend that meeting.

Instead, Yanukovych reportedly left Kyiv today to travel to his power base in eastern Ukraine. He was due to meet with regional leaders and crowds of his own supporters.

Thousands of those supporters in Donetsk were holding a counterdemonstration today in support of the election results. Yanukovych once served as governor of that eastern region.