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Tensions Rise In Ukraine Over Election Results


Opposition rally at the Central Election Commission, Kyiv, on November 5.
Opposition rally at the Central Election Commission, Kyiv, on November 5.
Political tensions are rising in Ukraine as the country's opposition presses its demands for a partial recount of last month's parliamentary elections.

The opposition accuse election officials of fraud in the October 28 voting in favor of the ruling party of President Vitkor Yanukovych.

On November 5 in Kyiv, opposition leaders demanded that officials recount votes in 13 electoral districts.

Election authorities offered to rerun the vote in five of the districts.

United Opposition leader Arseniy Yatsenyuk rejected that proposal, saying the opposition wants a recount, not a new vote.

"We are demanding that the Central Electoral Commission establish the result of voting in 13 districts where, according to the final tally, the opposition won," he told reporters.

"If the falsifications which are taking place in the local election commissions continue, if the Central Election Commission doesn't protect the law and the constitution and -- the main thing -- if it doesn't take the side of the Ukrainian people who gave an advantage to the opposition candidates, such an election cannot be acknowledged," Yatsenyuk added.

Outside the offices of the Central Electoral Commission some 1,500 opposition supporters demonstrated on November 5.

The leader of the opposition Udar (Punch) party, world heavyweight champion boxer Vitaly Klitschko, had addressed the crowd earlier in the day.

"We are proposing that [President Yanukovych], as the guarantor of the constitution, join the [vote-counting] process, because he should guarantee the implementation of the law," Klitschko said. "If the law is not implemented, then why do we need such a guarantor? I'm sure, therefore, that along with an early parliamentary election, we will also hold a presidential election if he doesn't fulfill his presidential functions now."

There were reports later in the evening of scuffles between some protesters and riot police.

Prime Minister Mykola Azarov has said the Party of Regions had nothing to do with the incidents at the center of the dispute, adding that the results released so far are in line with exit polls and preelection surveys.

Results released so far give the Party of Regions a narrow lead over the opposition.

Uneasy Spectators

On November 6, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton urged Ukraine to follow up on the opposition complaints. Her spokeswoman, Maja Kocijancic, said the European Union encourages the government and the opposition "to address this issue.”

Observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) criticized the misuse of state money and resources and biased media coverage in the vote run-up, saying democracy had taken a "step backward" since Yanukovych was elected in 2010.

That assessment was shared by U.S. officials and by NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen.

"I am very concerned about the situation in Ukraine," Rasmussen said in Brussels of NATO Membership Action Plan candidate Ukraine. "It's clear that the parliamentary elections constituted a step backwards for Ukrainian democracy."

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton added her voice as well, urging officials in Kyiv to quickly release final election results "which should reflect the genuine will of the Ukrainian voters."

Based on reporting by AP, Reuters, and RFE/RL Brussels correspondent Rikard Jozwiak
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