KYIV -- Former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who failed to qualify for a presidential runoff election after official results put her in third place in the first round, has said that she believes the vote was "rigged" but will not contest the results in court.
Tymoshenko said at a press conference in Kyiv on April 2 that the March 31 election -- won by comedian and political newcomer Volodymyr Zelenskiy, with incumbent Petro Poroshenko finishing second -- was "a fight between good and evil."
"The election results were rigged," she said. "President Petro Poroshenko used technologies to have the results he wanted so that he could move on to the runoff [on April 21]."
"Thirty-nine candidates were registered in order to spread out the votes.... A person with the same surname as mine was also registered," she said, contending that "many ballots" cast by her supporters were filled out mistakenly as a result.
Ukraine's Central Election Commission (CEC) said on April 2 that, with more than 99 percent of the votes counted, Zelenskiy had won 30.23 percent and Poroshenko 15.92 percent. Tymoshenko garnered 13.39 percent to place third, with former gas executive and ex-minister Yuriy Boyko finishing fourth with 11.68 percent. Voter turnout was reported to be 63 percent.
The election results mirrored three separate exit polls, which showed Zelenskiy, who portrays a teacher-turned-president in a television series, with at least 30 percent. All the polls put Poroshenko in second with about 18 percent, while Tymoshenko followed with around 14 percent.
Despite Tymoshenko's allegations, she added that she would not challenge the results, saying, "I respect the choice of the people."
"Poroshenko could not make it to the runoff [election normally]," she continued. "But he made it via falsifications.... Because [he] 'privatized' all the courts and we were unable to challenge the violations that took place before and during the election."
Ukrainian Central Election Commission head Tetyana Slipachuk said that voting and counting of votes took place "without systemic violations," and international observers said on April 1 that the election was "well administered" and "competitive."
Tymoshenko did not offer an endorsement for one of the two candidates in the runoff election, to be held on April 21.
"I understand that there is a question within society, among those who did not give their votes to the two candidates who officially made it to the runoff, who ask each other, 'What is next, who should I vote for?'...We will do everything to prevent falsifications [of the vote] in the second round of the election.
"We will be helping any president whom the country will select -- helping to include the concepts, the theses, and the strategies that have been laid down in [my party's political program, the] New Course."
Tymoshenko said that she and her party "will be helping any president whom the country will select -- helping to include the concepts, the theses, and the strategies that have been laid down in [my party's political program, the] New Course."
Tymoshenko said she would focus her efforts on helping her party, Batkivshchyna (Fatherland), to succeed in general elections due to be held in October.
"The chance we've lost in the first round of the presidential election is just one chance," Tymoshenko said. "We still have one opportunity left to bring in a dramatic change, to implement a new course, and this is the next parliamentary elections."
She said after those elections, "we will start an era of the country's rebirth."
Meanwhile, the European Network of Elections Monitoring Organizations (ENEMO) called on April 2 for Zelenskiy and Poroshenko to hold a series of debates before the runoff.
"Despite their absence before the first round, the campaign was still competitive," said Pierre Peytier, an ENEMO representative in Kyiv. "We call and emphasize that the debates before the second round are extremely important for the election campaign."
An election mission from the U.S.-based National Democratic Institute also called for debates to be scheduled between the two candidates.
Zelenskiy has said he is prepared to take part in debates but some of his campaign officials later said he would not participate in such events, RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service reported.
Poroshenko has said a debate must be held before the runoff.
The National Public Broadcasting Company of Ukraine on April 1 invited the candidates to take part in a debate.
Of the 25 Ukrainian regions that took part in the presidential election, 20 of them voted in favor of Zelenskiy. Two voted for Poroshenko, one for Tymoshenko, and two -- the eastern part of the country -- voted for Boyko.