Ukraine Opposition Forces Threaten Call for New Elections
Several hundred opposition protesters took to the streets in Kiev on Monday to protest against last week’s allegedly rigged parliamentary elections, while opposition leaders have hinted at the possibility of pushing for an early presidential and parliamentary vote, according to RIA Novosti.
Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych’s ruling Party of Regions won about 30 percent of the vote during the October 28 elections, appearing to secure the parliamentary majority it sought to keep in an informal alliance with the Communist Party of Ukraine.
But critics and opposition leaders have decried the vote, citing numerous reports of electoral violations across several Ukrainian regions.
Protesters from the three main opposition forces – imprisoned former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko’s Fatherland party, world famous boxer Vitaly Klitschko’s Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reform (UDAR) and the nationalist All-Ukrainian Union “Freedom” – gathered in Kiev outside the Central Election Commission to protest the results.
Meanwhile, Tymoshenko’s Fatherland said in a statement posted to its website that it was considering a call for holding snap presidential and parliamentary elections. The next presidential election is set for 2015.
“If the authorities do not immediately stop the falsification of the election process, [we] are ready to recognize the Verkhovna Rada [Ukraine’s parliament] as illegitimate and will insist on holding early presidential and parliamentary elections,” the statement read.
Opposition leaders, including Arseny Yatsenyuk, the leader of Fatherland in Tymoshenko's absence, also called on the CEC to recognize what they say are the victories of opposition candidates in 13 different election districts.
He told a press conference in Kiev on Monday that a re-vote should be held in districts found to be marred by alleged falsification.
Both Yanuykovych and Prime Minister Mykola Azarov praised the elections as free and fair.
But International observers condemned the vote as a “step backward” for Ukrainian democracy.
“Ukrainians deserve better than these elections,” Andreas Gross, head of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe’s (PACE) observer mission, told reporters in Kiev last week.
The observers criticized what they believed to be the abuse of administrative resources, a lack of media freedom during the campaign season, and the opaque campaign finances of pro-government “independent” and Party of Regions candidates.
As of early Monday, 99.95 percent of the ballots from last Sunday’s vote had been counted. Behind the Party of Regions, the United Opposition won 25.5 percent, while UDAR won about 13.9 percent. “Freedom,” meanwhile, won 10 percent. The Communist Party won 13 percent.
The election was held according to a mixed system, in which half of the parliamentary deputies were elected according to party lists, while the other half were elected in majoritarian districts.
Critics had cried foul ahead of the election that the majoritarian races would be particularly susceptible to manipulation in favor of the ruling party.