Battle for Fair Vote in Ukraine Drags On
17:08 02/11/2012 MOSCOW, November 2 (Dan Peleschuk, RIA Novosti) – World famous boxer Vitaly Klitschko, whose Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reform (UDAR) won nearly 14 percent of Sunday’s parliamentary vote in Ukraine, threatened on Friday not to recognize the results of the election.
“If the manipulation continues, we will do everything so that these elections are recognized as illegitimate,” he said at a press conference.
Klitschko’s statement comes amid a strained post-election atmosphere in Ukraine, where allegations of vote manipulation have continued to flow in as the last remaining ballots are counted.
With nearly 100 percent of the votes counted, President Viktor Yanukovych’s ruling Party of Regions has received 30 percent, while the United Opposition, led by imprisoned opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko’s Fatherland party, has pulled in 25.5 percent.
The nationalist All-Ukrainian Union “Freedom” party, meanwhile, won about 10 percent in a surge that surprised many observers.
But critics have cried foul over what they say is continuing vote fraud favoring the ruling regime.
In the most high-profile incident, riot police broke into a Mykolaiv Region polling station on Friday to forcibly retrieve ballots after demonstrators had gathered there to decry alleged fraud at the location.
The incident resulted in clashes between police and protesters, according to video footage posted online.
Opposition deputies were allegedly able to retrieve the stolen ballots and return them to the polling station, according to local news portal NikVesti.
Members of Tymoshenko's Fatherland party have also reported fights breaking out at a Kiev polling station in which their candidate, Serhiy Teryokhin, allegedly won the popular vote against a Party of Regions candidate.
Zhanna Usenko-Chorna, deputy head of Ukraine’s Central Election Commission (CEC), called on her colleagues to anull the Mykolaiv district vote as well as the results in several other contested districts.
“There are quite primitive methods of stealing and falsifying the results of the popular vote,” she said at a commission meeting on Friday, according to Ukrainian news agency UNIAN.
International observers from NATO and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, among others, condemned the vote earlier this week as a “step backward” for Ukraine’s 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 on Monday afternoon.
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.
“A democratic election is much more than a competition between smaller and bigger oligarchs who colonize Ukrainian politics and democracy with their big money,” Gross said.
Both Yanukovych and Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov praised the elections as free and fair.
A senior official in the Party of Region’s local headquarters in Donetsk, home to the party’s eastern Ukrainian support base, promised to “mobilize our people” to defend the results, if necessary.
Klitschko, meanwhile, said his party would make a decision after the results are officially announced by the CEC.
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