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Ukraine's election controversy drags on
Wu LimingChina Daily  Updated: 2004-11-29 08:40

Ukraine's Supreme Council (parliament) has declared the country's controversial presidential election invalid as the standoff between the government and the opposition drags on.

The declaration was made on Saturday by 255 of the 429 legislators attending a special session on the election dispute, Ukrainian news media reported.

Under the Ukrainian constitution, the invalidation declaration is not legally binding. But it is clearly a demonstration of the legislature's growing dissatisfaction over the November 21 presidential poll.

The legislature, which convened an emergency session to seek solutions to the current election crisis, failed to pass a decision to organize another round of election, making the current standoff more complicated.

Opposition leader, former prime minister Viktor Yushchenko, has since last week repeatedly refused to accept his defeat, claiming he was cheated out of victory. He has been urging his supporters to take to the streets.

The parliament's vote cheered up Yushchenko's supporters.

Braving snow and wind, thousands of supporters wearing scarves and hats remained on the capital's streets for the sixth day, chanting slogans and demanding a re-run of the election.

The parliament is expected to discuss the postponement of Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich's inauguration following a Supreme Court ruling, which ordered last Thursday the election's final results not to be published until it has examined an appeal lodged by the opposition against them.

Yanukovich was declared the winner of Sunday's election but cannot be inaugurated pending the hearing of an appeal to the Supreme Court filed by the Yushchenko camp. The court is to hear the case starting Monday.

The disputed election has caused tension between the West and Russia. The two sides have been engaged in a tug-of-war over the past few days, each lending support to their respective favourites.

On Friday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov accused Western countries of intervening in Ukraine's political crisis in a bid to draw the former Soviet republic toward the West.

Meanwhile, the European Union and the United States have strongly backed Yushchenko who favours closer ties with the West. The US has threatened "consequences" if Ukrain accepts the disputed election results.

To break the deadlock, Parliament Chairman Vladimir Litvin on Saturday urged his colleagues to reach agreement "as soon as possible" on organizing another round of balloting.

"The resolution is a political assessment on the current situation by the congress," said Litvin, adding that the legislature should also make more legally-binding decisions to enhance the "political assessment."

Litvin said the congress members should immediately consider when to organize another round of balloting.

"It is urgent to make decisions on re-balloting and the issue can not be delayed," he was quoted by local media as saying, adding the lawmakers should make a decision as soon as possible, so as to lay out the next action.

Litvin, who was once director of outgoing Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma's office, also said the country should consider political reform in the face of this comprehensive political crisis.

In last Saturday's emergency session, the parliament also passed a no-confidence vote against the Central Election Commission (CEC), which, although not legally binding, angered the CEC Chairman Sergey Kivalov.

"I'm willing to go, but you have to prove what mistakes we have made," said Kivalov in a talk show on Inter, Ukraine's second biggest private television channel.

The top election supervisor said he was preparing to leave, "but he could not go like this." Kivalov requested the lawmakers table evidences for the accusations against him and his colleagues.

"We knew a long time ago we would become a hostage of the current situation," he said.

Kivalov accused the parliament of making the motion "too hastily," saying that the lawmakers should listen to more comprehensive views and a special committee should be set up to study the crisis.

Yanukovich and Yushchenko each won around 40 per cent of the vote in the first round of the presidential election held on October 31. On Wednesday the CEC declared Yanukovich the winner of a run-off vote.

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