Ukraine PM hits hurdles in election complaint
Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich's dogged bid to overturn his liberal rival's victory in Ukraine's presidential election faltered on Thursday after the Supreme Court said it had thrown out all but one of his complaints.
With West-leaning Viktor Yushchenko already discussing his post-election program and holding a lead of about eight percentage points in the preliminary count, the prime minister has vowed never to concede defeat. He has also refused to bow to demands from his opponents to step down as premier.
Yushchenko's allies sought to persuade thousands of activists to dismantle a tent camp sent up in central Kiev last month to back their candidate. But residents were in no hurry to leave.
Supreme Court spokeswoman Liana Shlyaposhnikova said judges had now rejected three of four complaints from Yanukovich's team concerning the organization of last Sunday's re-run of the rigged Nov. 21 poll.
"Two complaints were not considered because the proper time frame for submitting them was not respected," Shlyaposhnikova said. "One was turned down because the demands submitted by the plaintiff were not clearly drawn up." The Court was examining a fourth complaint, which like the others concerned procedural problems during voting, on Thursday.
The Central Election Commission was also to begin considering 27 volumes of irregularities, submitted as evidence by the premier.
Further attempts to overturn the vote may follow once the Commission formally declares Yushchenko the winner. The head of the commission has described Yanukovich's complaints as an attempt to draw an impartial body into the realm of politics.
Pending any announcement, Yushchenko has been setting down the aims of an administration he says will encourage business, uproot corruption and improve ties with western Europe.
With his inauguration expected in mid-January, he has also suggested a half dozen names as possible future prime ministers.
YUSHCHENKO DISMISSES RIVAL'S COMPLAINTS
Yushchenko described the challenges as a "pinprick" on Wednesday and predicted they would be quickly dismissed.
"It's like a fly in the ointment. They want to torture the nation for another 10 days," he told an interviewer. "Yanukovich is not living in Ukrainian reality. He's in another world."
On Kiev's normally elegant main thoroughfare, Khreshchatyk, activists appeared reluctant to start pulling down their ramshackle but highly organized tent camp.
"We assume they will start dismantling the camp by the end of today," Taras Stetskiv, a Yushchenko ally, told Reuters. "And this should be completed by New Year's Day."
But many residents, who had converged on Kiev from villages throughout the country the size of France, were in no hurry.
"We will not be dismantling anything. We intend to stay here until Yushchenko is inaugurated," said Oleksiy Lomtyev, one of the camp's organizers. "Our worry is that if we go, Yanukovich's supporters could set up something in our place."
Yanukovich was declared the winner of the Nov. 21 poll, triggering mass street protests by Yushchenko supporters. The Supreme Court later struck down the result on grounds of mass fraud and ordered last Sunday's re-run.
The premier, prevented by protesters from chairing a cabinet meeting on Wednesday, acknowledged he was having difficulty performing his duties, but vowed he would never step down.
Sacked by parliament at the height of the street protests, he remains in office solely as outgoing President Leonid Kuchma has not signed the necessary decree.
Kuchma, who has now fallen out with the prime minister he earlier backed as his successor, has said nothing since election day, when he urged whoever lost the contest to concede quickly.