KIEV, Jan. 10 – Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who opinion polls show may lose the presidential election to opposition leader Viktor Yanukovych, Sunday pledged to contest the vote in courts unless legislation is amended to eliminate possible fraud.
Tymoshenko will seek to call an emergency session of Parliament within days to try to ban voters casting ballots at home without producing medical records proving their illnesses.
“If we prove that there are falsifications, we will be in court,” Tymoshenko said, speaking at a late night talk show on Channel 5 television.
The prospect of a court-contested election may lead to significant political tensions in Ukraine. Yanukovych’s Regions Party has already disclosed plans for massive street rallies in Kiev after January 17 to “protect” the choice of the people after the vote.
Tymoshenko is opposing the legislation that her party had originally approved by joining forces with the Regions Party to govern the next presidential election. The legislation was criticized by President Viktor Yushchenko.
The legislation did not provide a clear guidance concerning the at-home ballot casting, but the issue had suddenly loomed large on January 4 when the Central Election Commission had ruled to allow voters massively casting ballots at home without showing the medical records.
This may effectively lead to sweeping vote rigging on a scale similar to the presidential election of November 2004 that had triggered the Orange Revolution, a popular uprising against the election fraud.
Yanukovych will most likely defeat Tymoshenko in the runoff vote to become the country’s next president, according to the latest opinion poll released by Democratic Initiatives.
Yanukovych was likely to score 33.6% support in the first round of voting, followed by Tymoshenko’s 19.2%, which will require the runoff vote on February 7, according to the poll.
In the runoff, the poll shows, Yanukovych was likely to defeat Tymoshenko 44.3% vs. 28%.
The 14-strong Central Election Commission on January 4 voted 8 to 4 to allow Ukrainian voters casting ballots at home without producing medical records proving their illnesses.
The decision shows that Yanukovych and his allies effectively control the majority of the commission that will be authorized to declare the next president following the vote.
Tymoshenko on January 5 pledged to reverse the CEC’s decision in a court, but a ruling by the Kiev Administrative Court of Appeals on January 8 had dashed those hopes.
“So, the court confirmed legality of the respective decision on the one hand, and on the other [confirmed] absolute groundlessness of the allegations that had been presented by one of the candidates,” Mykhaylo Okhendovskiy, a member of the CEC, said. (tl/ez)