No concession in Ukrainian election
December 27, 2004
KIEV, Ukraine – Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych refused to concede defeat today even as opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko built an insurmountable lead in a presidential election that independent observers said was more legitimate than the first attempt last month.
With 99.9 percent of the vote counted, the pro-Western Yushchenko had 52 percent, with 44 percent for Yanukovych, who had received Moscow’s backing.
Charging that Sunday’s revote was marred by even more severe problems than those that led the Supreme Court to invalidate the Nov. 21 balloting, Yanukovych said he would ask the court to overturn the latest results.
“I will never accept such a defeat,” Yanukovych said at a news conference. “We will be fighting for the results to be invalidated. … Our observers have filed 4,971 complaints so far.”
There were signs, however, that Yanukovych was primarily aiming to position himself and his allies as a potent opposition under a Yushchenko presidency and that he may not truly expect to nullify his rival’s victory.
Taras Chornovil, campaign manager for Yanukovych, told reporters Monday that the election results may lead to the emergence of a “good and effective opposition” in Ukraine.
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“The election was non-transparent, undemocratic and dishonest,” Chornovil said, according to the Russian news agency Itar-Tass.
“This, in Chornovil’s view, gives more chances to a new opposition at parliamentary elections in 2006,” the agency reported.
In Washington, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said Sunday’s balloting marked a historic moment for democracy in Ukraine.
“We congratulate Ukrainians for the courage they displayed in standing up for their democratic rights,” Powell told a news conference. “We call on Ukrainians now to set their divisions behind them and to refrain from violence, separatism or provocations.”
Early on in the campaign, Yanukovych was seen by critics as little more than a front man for outgoing President Leonid D. Kuchma and a few powerful businessmen from eastern Ukraine. But after the Supreme Court demanded a repeat runoff, Yanukovych broke politically with the unpopular incumbent and ran a forceful campaign based on fierce criticism of Kuchma as well as Yushchenko.
That may have boosted his long-term political prospects as an opposition leader who will stand up for his supporters’ interests.
“Yanukovych is about 8 percent behind. This defeat is not humiliating. Yanukovych’s political reputation and prospects remain intact. He may feel free to run in the parliamentary elections,” Volodymyr Fesenko, chairman of the Penta political research center, said at news conference, the Interfax-Ukraine news agency reported.