Ukraine prime minister ahead in presidential vote
November 21, 2004
KIEV, Ukraine – Ukraine’s prime minister was leading the nation’s run-off presidential election, according to partial vote tallies released today, but his Western-leaning challenger held the advantage in an exit poll funded partly by the United States.
Both camps complained of voting problems. Also, a policeman guarding a polling station overnight was found dead of a head injury apparently inflicted by intruders, news reports said.
With 33 percent of precincts counted following Sunday’s election, Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych had 50 percent of the vote, compared with Viktor Yushchenko’s 46 percent, the Central Election Commission said.
But an exit poll conducted by anonymous questionnaires under a program funded by several Western governments said Yushchenko had received 54 percent of the vote compared with the Kremlin-praised Yanukovych’s 43 percent. A second exit poll, however, showed Yushchenko’s margin was much smaller at 49.4 percent to 45.9 percent, the Interfax news agency reported.
“The difference between Yushchenko and Yanukovych displayed in exit polls shows that even if authorities attempt to rig the vote they will not be able to falsify all of it,” Yushchenko’s campaign manager, Oleksandr Zinchenko, told about 5,000 people gathered Sunday in Kiev’s Independence Square.
Yanukovych spokesman Stepan Havrysh criticized the exit poll results, calling them “incorrect, unscientific and even comical.”
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Sunday’s run-off could determine whether the ex-Soviet republic of 48 million pursues closer integration with the West or moves more into Moscow’s sphere of influence. There were concerns the vote could turn violent.
Turnout was more than 77 percent, election commission chairman Serhiy Kivalov said.
Yushchenko and associates went to the election commission today demanding more details on turnout. His campaign contended that some precincts showed improbable turnout figures of 96 percent.
After meeting with Kivalov, Yushchenko accused the election commission of dragging out the vote count, which he characterized as “giving carte blanche to falsification.” He urged his supporters to again gather in Independence Square today.
“The elections are being falsified. You cannot get the truth from the Central Election Commission,” he said.