Election councils register 100,000 fake voters
The Ukraine spy agency claimed
Officials from Ukraine`s national intelligence agency the SBU accused a provincial election council of registering close to 100,000 non-existent persons on voter rolls, Korrespondent magazine reported Monday. According to Earth Times, the alleged election fraud attempt took place in the eastern Kharkiv region, said SBU spokesman Andrij Mukhtaev, citing the results of a secret investigation conducted by the spy agency.
Ukraine is set for a September 30 national election to select a new parliament.
Most (94,000) of the discrepancies found in the SBU investigation were duplications in two different voter rolls of a single legitimately-registered voter, Mukhtaev said.
Oleksander Krivtsov, a Kharkiv province election official, conceded voter rolls "are still being finalized" in the run-up to the Sunday election, but argued the SBU - Ukraine`s version of the KGB - had no right to enforce election fraud law.
The voter roll errors were honest mistakes and regional election commission would make sure the mistakes were corrected, Krivtsov said.
Many voter roll errors discovered by the SBU investigation are linked to typographical errors stemming from spelling differences, as Kharkiv is a Russian-speaking province but Ukrainian voter rolls must be in Ukrainian, a language not so well understood in Kharkiv, he said.
The accusations and counter-accusations were typical of the tense run-up to the vote, which will determine whether Ukraine`s government will become more pro-Europe and free market-oriented, or remain on its current pro-Russia and big business-oriented track.
The election is a three-way battle between the ruling pro-business Regions party, the anti-corruption Tymoshenko party, and the nationalist Our Ukraine party. Currently, Regions is leading in polls with the Tymoshenko party second and closing.
Leaders of all three parties have accused their opponents of preparing to commit election fraud, although Ukraine`s last parliamentary election, in 2006, was in general free and fair, according to international observers.
The close rankings in the current battle could make a few percentage points decisive in determining which two party-coalition will control the next legislature, and so the temptation to fix voting results is increased this year, observers said.
Kharkiv is traditionally a strong supporter of Regions` pro-Russia party platform. The province saw massive vote fraud in 2004, when local officials allowed individual voters to cast as many as thirty ballots in favour of selected candidates, a supreme court review later found.
Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko in June ordered the SBU to make prevention of internal election fraud during the 2007 vote a top priority for the intelligence agency, whose normal missions are hunting down foreign spies and terrorists.
Volodymyr Sivkovich, a serving MP for Regions, accused Yushchenko of targeting the SBU`s agents against Regions, because of Yushchenko`s opposition to Regions` pro-Russia policies.
Ukraine`s Orange Revolution in 2004 came after millions of irate voters took to the streets in response to a presidential election fixed in the Regions candidate`s favour. Mass demonstrations eventually reversed the election result, putting Yushchenko into power.