KIEV, Sept. 20 – Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych’s Regions Party on Thursday suddenly threatened to withdraw from the Sept. 30 snap election after accusing two opposition groups of taking actions that may reduce the party’s showing.
Mykola Azarov, the first deputy prime minister, said the party will make the decision within the next several days after investigating reports that he believes may implicate the opposition groups.
“This will happen within the next several days,” Azarov said in an interview with Studio 1+1 television late Thursday. If such decision is taken, Azarov said earlier in the day, “this would mean the election is cancelled.”
The comments show that tensions have been growing sharply between the ruling Regions Party and two opposition groups: President Viktor Yushchenko’s Our Ukraine-People’s Self-defense and the group led by former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko.
The withdrawal of the Regions Party, currently the most popular group in the country, from the election may send Ukraine into another wave of political turmoil.
The developments come days after the two opposition groups accused the Regions Party of preparing massive manipulations that would artificially inflate the party’s scoring at the election.
At two polling stations in the Luhansk region, a stronghold of the Regions Party, local authorities listed 435 voters with age of more than 100 years. It is highly unusual to list so many 100-year-olds for the vote compared with previous elections, according to Our Ukraine-People’s Self-defense.
“There are 57 voters that have the same age of 108 years and have been by miracle born on same day of Dec. 31, 1899,” Viacheslav Serpokrylov, a regional activist of Our Ukraine-People’s Self-defense, said.
Our Ukraine-People’s Self-defense has been for weeks waging a campaign, dubbed the Phantom, to check whether the voter lists had been artificially inflated. The group discovered more than 65,000 voters that had been listed twice. “This is not a coincidence, it’s a preparation for the falsifications,” Serpokrylov said.
The trend may be taking shape throughout other regions controlled by the Regions Party as voter lists in Kharkiv contain more than 2,000 voters older than 107 years, according to SBU, the security service.
Yanukovych said Wednesday the party has started to receive reports suggesting the two opposition groups instructing its members at local election committees not to sign voter tallies after the vote. This would nullify the election in a given region, perhaps targeting the Regions Party.
“This is being done by the so-called team of democrats,” Yanukovych said. “They will be doing anything to cancel the election, because the polling agencies show that their ratings are lagging behind.”
An opinion poll by Democratic Initiatives Foundation and by the Ukrainian Sociology Service showed the Regions Party was ahead, but potentially scoring less than Our Ukraine and the Tymoshenko group combined.
The Regions Party would score 34.7%, followed by the Tymoshenko group’s 25.7%, Our Ukraine-People’s Self-defense’s 11.9%, according to the poll conducted between Sept. 1 and Sept. 10.
The Regions Party has been earlier pushing hard to allow voters to cast ballots at home, a tactic that has been viewed by Western diplomats as a potential attempt to rig the vote. A court ruling allowed at-home ballot casting only after submitting proof that a voter cannot attend the polling station for a health reason.
“Total voting at home, listing 150-year-old voters, dead and non-born in regions controlled by the Regions Party is among the tools used by this political group,” the Tymoshenko Bloc said. “What they fear is not falsification, but removal of conditions that actually create it.” (tl/ez)