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Ukraine: Yushchenko Wins, But Country Does Not Have A New President Yet

Yushchenko supporters will have to wait some more (photo from 26-27 December rally) Ukrainian opposition candidate Viktor Yushchenko has won the 26 December presidential election -- defeating rival Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych 52 percent to 44 percent. But a final certification of the results might still be days away. Yanukovych has lodged a complaint to contest the result in court, alleging widespread infringements of the election law.

Kyiv, 28 December 2004 (RFE/RL) - Yushchenko won the new vote, but Ukraine does not yet have a new president.

That's because Yanukovych has not yet the conceded, and any legal challenge could still take days to sort out.

Dmytro Ponamarchuk, a political analyst working for Yanukovych, says the prime minister is basing his challenge on controversial amendments made to the election law shortly before the 26 December vote.

The amendments, which restricted home voting to all but Ukraine's most severely handicapped people, were aimed at curbing the abuse that marred an earlier election on 21 November. That vote was won by Yanukovych but later tossed out by the Supreme Court, which cited massive fraud.

A day before the new vote, the Constitutional Court ruled the amendments were too harsh and that voters with lesser disabilities should be allowed to vote at home, too. The prime minister's team is arguing that the Central Election Commission failed to provide for that.

Ponamarchuk says the failure cost Yanukovych 3 million votes: "We are talking about 3 million [votes], because Nina Korpachova, the ombudswoman on human rights, said after amendments to the election law were passed before the third round that those amendments had deprived 4 1/2 million citizens of their right to vote in places other than the precincts of a polling station. Only invalids of the first category [severely handicapped] were allowed to vote at home. But the 3 million concerns those in the second and third categories [less infirm], who were not allowed to vote beyond the precincts of the polling stations."

More than 12,000 international election monitors observed the voting and said there were no major infringements that should affect the validity of the election.

A spokesman for Yushchenko claimed his candidate's win came in a generally free and fair vote, and declared they were prepared to prove their assertions in court.

Election commission Chairman Yaroslav Davydovych said he is not worried by Yanukovych's complaint. He said the courts will have one task in front of them as they decide the matter.

"The judges who will be examining these matters have one fundamental question to answer: 'Did something influence the outcome of the election? Yes or no?' That is how the court will approach the matter," Davydovych said.

Ponamarchuk says Yanukovych is serious about the complaint: "The fact that Yanukovych's team has taken such a serious approach testifies they want a legal war on this front. I can tell you that there are some very powerful forces gathered there. There are some very competent lawyers working there. You can be certain that they are going to approach the matter in a very determined way."

Yanukovych has already said he will push the matter to the Supreme Court, if necessary.

"But when the election commission announces its final results for the election, then [Yanukovych's lawyers] can take the matter to the Supreme Court," Ponamarchuk says. "In fact they can take it to the Supreme Court now if the appellate court rejects their complaints."

The Central Election Commission says it will consider complaints within two days. The time frame of lodging appeals with the Supreme Court is seven days.