Ukraine Gripped by Poll Turmoil

Politics | November 22, 2004, Monday // 00:00| Views: | Comments: 0
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Ukraine Gripped by Poll Turmoil Supporters of opposition presidential candidate Viktor Yushchenko (R) greet him during a rally in Kiev. Ukraine's pro-Russia Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich was poised to win a presidential runoff vote. Photo by AFP

Tens of thousands of Ukrainians crowded major cities, protesting at an election result they consider flawed.

Opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko told supporters to stage a civil disobedience campaign. The cities of Kiev and Lviv refused to recognize the official victory for Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych.

While Russia accepted the result, a US observer alleged "concerted and forceful" fraud, and the EU called on Ukraine to review Sunday's election. We are very concerned about the news we have had about the outcome, said Dutch Foreign Minister Bernard Bot, representing the EU. Moscow, which backed Prime Minister Yanukovych, recognised the election result. Observers for the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) said Sunday's run-off vote fell far short of European democratic norms.

The central electoral commission said with more than 99% of the vote counted, Yanukovych had 49.4% while Yushchenko had 46.7%. But the opposition says it has recorded many thousands of irregularities - including very high turnouts in government strongholds.

Yanukovych was backed by incumbent President Leonid Kuchma. Exit polls earlier suggested that Yushchenko had been on course for victory with a lead of at least six percentage points.
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