Yushchenko declared winner of Ukraine vote
Ukraine's Election Commission late Monday declared Western-leaning reformer Viktor Yushchenko the winner of the presidential election over Kremlin-favored Viktor Yanukovych, whose camp immediately vowed to appeal the results to the Supreme Court.
The commission announced that the final official tally of the Dec. 26 vote — which was a rerun of the Nov. 21 election that was annulled because of fraud — showed Yushchenko with 51.99 percent of the votes and Yanukovych with 44.2 percent.
The Supreme Court earlier Monday rejected eight complaints by Yanukovych's campaign. But his representative on the elections commission, Nestor Shufrich, said after the commission's announcement: "We will appeal to the Supreme Court tomorrow for sure."
The commission's statement Monday must be accepted by the high court and published in two official newspapers before Yushchenko can be inaugurated. That could leave Yanukovych's camp a window for filing more legal actions. Ivan Kruchok, the deputy head of the printing house for both newspapers, said "the decree will not be published tonight, and we did not receive its text."
Earlier Monday, Yanukovych's campaign manager Taras Chornovyl said a massive legal action consisting of some 500 volumes was being prepared to prove widespread fraud in last month's revote.
"Millions of Ukrainians were deprived of their right to elect their president," Shufrich said, indicating an appeal could focus on election-law reforms that blocked the use of absentee ballots, allegedly a prime source of abuse in the Nov. 21 vote.
Though the ban on absentee ballots was overturned by the Constitutional Court just a day before the Dec. 26 ballot, it did not give enough time for many old and ailing Ukrainians to vote.
The commission's announcement and high court rejection of previous Yanukovych appeals, however, appeared to leave little hope of a last-minute turnaround for Yanukovych, though that tactic had worked for Yushchenko.
After hundreds of thousands of protesters poured into downtown Kiev to denounce the Nov. 21 vote, Yushchenko filed appeals with the Supreme Court. Although the elections commission had declared Yanukovych the winner, the court prohibited official publication of the results pending resolution of the appeal and it eventually declared the vote invalid.
International elections observers had criticized the Nov. 21 election as a step backward for the ex-Soviet republic, noting widespread incidents of multiple voting and intense bias against Yushchenko by state-run and -influenced television stations.
The protesters built an enormous tent camp on Kiev's main avenue and have remained there since. Their numbers have fallen in recent weeks as Yushchenko's prospects appeared to improve, but some have vowed to remain until he is inaugurated.
Chornovyl also threatened that Yanukovych supporters from his stronghold, the eastern Donetsk region, could pour into Kiev to protest an official declaration of Yushchenko as winner.
"We will not turn to violent actions, but we are hearing about radical moves from Donetsk. We will not be able to control the people," he said.
Ukraine's political tensions derive partly from an ethnic fault line between the country's east, which is heavily Russian-speaking, and the center and west, where Ukrainian nationalist spirit is strong. Yanukovych supporters fear a Yushchenko presidency could marginalize Russian-speakers and stoke tensions with Russia, which is Ukraine's largest trading partner and the source of much of its gas and oil.
Yushchenko and his camp, meanwhile, have vowed to work against the primarily eastern "clans" that control much of industry and have concentrated wealth in a small number of hands. In addition, Yushchenko as president is widely expected to take action against alleged corruption.