Monday, February 08, 2010

Ukraine: Tymoshenko refuses to concede defeat

Yanukovych holds a slim lead over Tymoshenko in Ukraine's runoff presidential election with most of the votes counted.

Ukrainian opposition leader Viktor Yanukovych has a narrow lead in Sunday's runoff presidential election, and has claimed victory in what would be an astonishing comeback for the pro-Russia candidate.

With more than 87 percent of the votes counted, official results give Mr. Yanukovych 48.5% of the vote compared to 45.8% for his opponent, Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko.

Mr. Yanukovych is calling on the prime minster to resign, but Ms. Tymoshenko is refusing to concede defeat.

Ms. Tymoshenko accused pro-Yanukovych forces of ballot-box stuffing in Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine, and her campaign said it will contest votes cast in about 1,000 polling stations.

Official final results are expected later this week.

Six years ago, official results declared Mr. Yanukovych the winner over pro-Western Viktor Yushchenko, but huge protests known as the "Orange Revolution" over reports of massive vote fraud led to a new election won by Mr. Yushchenko.

President Yushchenko took office in January 2005 with Ms. Tymoshenko as his prime minister. Their partnership later disintegrated and both ran for president this time around. Mr. Yushchenko finished well behind both Mr. Yanukovych and Ms. Tymoshenko in the first round of voting, and was not eligible for the runoff ballot.

The campaign for Sunday's election had been marked by smears and insults throughout. The two candidates accused each other of rigging the vote even before balloting began.

Mr. Yanukovych was considered the front-runner in the runoff vote, since he won the first round last month by 10 percentage points. He is a former prime minister himself, and was in office at the time of the last presidential election, in 2004.

Bruce Allen Published with the permission of Voice of America

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