Ukrainian opposition demands recount in 13 constituencies

Kyiv police blocks opposition rally.jpg

Ukraine's opposition demanded a recount in 13 constituencies yesterday (5 November), stepping up its campaign against the results of last month's parliamentary election which it says was rigged by President Viktor Yanukovich's ruling party. Meanwhile, the police blocked supporters of the opposition at a rally in Kyiv.

Opposition leaders pressed their demands in talks on Monday night with election officials as 1,500 supporters remained outside the electoral commission's headquarters in Kiev to protest against alleged fraud in the 28 October vote.

After a day of tension, the commission said it was ready to stage a re-run in five of the disputed electoral districts, but that would require parliament's approval and might not completely defuse the situation.

The United Opposition is against the holding of repeat elections in the single-seat constituencies where its candidates claimed victory on 28 October, the head of the council of the united opposition, Arseniy Yatseniuk, was quoted as saying by the Kyiv Post.

"The Central Election Commission has currently proposed cancelling the election results in five constituencies. We won't support the cancellation [of the election results] in the constituencies where we won," he said at a rally outside the building of the Central Election Commission on Monday. 

"We are demanding that the Central Electoral Commission announce the result of voting in 13 districts where, according to the final tally, the opposition won," Yatsenyuk also stated.

The demand was signed by Tymoshenko's Batkivshchyna (Fatherland) party, Svoboda (Freedom) ultra-nationalists and the UDAR (Punch) party of boxing champion Vitaly Klitschko, and follows international criticism of the election.

"We are not accepting the cheating that is going on," said Klitschko, who is WBC world heavyweight champion.

Observers from the OSCE rights and security body criticised misuse of state money and resources and biased media coverage in the vote run-up, saying democracy had taken a "step backwards" since Yanukovich was elected in February 2010.

On Saturday, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy Commissioner Štefan Füle expressed “increased concern” over the vote count. The election is seen as decisive for the future of the EU-Ukraine relations (see background).

Opposition to boycott Parliament?

Opposition leaders Yatsenyuk, Klitschko and Oleh Tyahnybok, the leader of the ultra-nationalsit party Svoboda, said they were prepared to refuse to recognise the election and boycott parliament if their demands were not met.

With most of the votes counted, the ruling Party of Regions won 30.01% of the vote, the United Opposition, 25.52%, the UDAR movement of boxer Vitali Klitschko 13.95%, the Communist Party 13.18% and the ultra-nationalist Svoboda party 10.44%.

Prime Minister Mykola Azarov said on Friday the ruling Party of the Regions had nothing to do with the incidents at the centre of the disputes, saying the overall results – which he said had handed victory to his party – were in line with exit-polls and pre-election surveys.

Even if the opposition was declared the winner in the disputed electoral districts the Party of the Regions would still keep its parliamentary majority as long as it had the support of its traditional communist allies and some independents.

However, a revision of the results could help galvanise anti-Yanukovich forces which have lost momentum since the imprisonment of Yulia Tymoshenko, one of the opposition's most prominent leaders and a former prime minister.

Roman Rukomeda, a political analyst of Ukrainian Foundation for Democracy “People First” said: "Instead of a recount in 13 constituencies the Ukrainian Parliament voted for the reelection in most problematic fiveconstituencies. The representatives of Central Electoral Committee noted that most probably the reelection will be held in March 2013. The official reason of delay – the absence of appropriate financing. So there are grounds to say that the central authorities are trying to neutralise the revolutionary intensions of citizens and opposition by prolonging the process of reelection and investigation of election’s violations cases.

"Besides, in most of those 5 problematic constituencies chosen for reelection there was a pure victory of opposition so we can say that opposition forces (in wide understanding counting to them “Svoboda” and “UDAR” failed to defend all their victories in majority constituencies. One more argument of that is that the authorities did not accept the idea of opposition to hold the general reelection in Ukraine. Of course, it doesn’t mean that in spring of 2013 during the reelection opposition will not win again on chosen 5 constituencies but the point is that usual citizens can get tired of political struggle by then. Most experts forecast the new wave of economic and financial crisis in 2013 and its strong impact on Ukraine.

"The biggest contradiction is that the only one who can dynamically demonstrate the practical and effective opposing and deterrence of authorities is the nationalist “Svoboda”. People believe in their decisiveness, not radicalism, and hope that they will act and not only speak. That is a new hope of Ukrainian citizens that can end either by the new big disappointment or by real changes in Ukrainian political life."

The December 2011 EU-Ukraine Summit failed to initial the country's Association Agreement with the Union, largely due to the imprisonment of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko that Brussels sees as politically motivated.

The five-year long negotiations over the Association Agreement were concluded, but EU leaders made it clear that the deal would not be signed until improvements are made to the "quality of democracy and rule of law" in Ukraine.

European Council President Herman Van Rompuy also made it clear that the country's association agreement, which includes a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area, would not be signed until the parliamentary elections in Ukraine due in October 2012.

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