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Refusing to Accept Loss in Election, Ukrainian Premier Looks to Courts

By Peter Finn
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, December 28, 2004; Page A16

KIEV, Ukraine, Dec. 27 -- Ukrainian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych refused to accept defeat in the country's presidential election and vowed Monday to ask the Supreme Court to overturn the result, claiming that millions of his supporters were disenfranchised and that there was systematic fraud.

"I will never admit defeat," Yanukovych said at a Monday evening news conference, where he sternly rejected suggestions that he should give up. "It's an appalling fact when millions of citizens didn't vote. They were stripped of that right to vote."

A supporter of Ukraine's Viktor Yushchenko, holding a Polish flag, shouts at a rally in Kiev. Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski was among the leaders to congratulate Yushchenko. (Alexander Zemlianichenko -- AP)

_____Election Protests_____
Photo Gallery: The parliament passed electoral and constitutional reforms, leading to celebrations by members of the opposition.
_____News From Ukraine_____
West-Leaning Leader Appears Headed for Win In Ukraine Vote (The Washington Post, Dec 27, 2004)
Putin Lashes Out At U.S. and E.U. (The Washington Post, Dec 24, 2004)
WORLD IN BRIEF (The Washington Post, Dec 22, 2004)
Ukrainian Candidates Trade Barbs In Debate (The Washington Post, Dec 21, 2004)

With 99.84 percent of the ballots counted, opposition candidate Viktor Yushchenko had a commanding lead, with 52 percent of the vote to 44 percent for Yanukovych. Early Monday Yushchenko claimed victory while speaking to his supporters as a resigned mood swept Yanukovych's camp.

The Central Elections Commission cannot declare Yushchenko the official winner until all legal challenges are heard by the country's Supreme Court. That process could take several more weeks. Yanukovych has seven days to file a challenge.

The prime minister said 4.8 million potential voters were not able to cast their ballots because of new electoral laws that restricted voting by the disabled and the use of absentee ballots by people unable to make it to the polls.

Those measures, adopted by parliament before Sunday's runoff, were designed to limit fraud, but Yanukovych said the new regulations violated the constitution and became an insurmountable barrier for the disabled. He claimed eight sick people died after arriving at polling stations.

"Who will take responsibility for the people who perished?" he said.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said that despite some shortcomings, the elections were largely fair.

"I cannot express to you how delighted I am to say that in our collective view, Ukraine's elections have moved substantially closer to meeting OSCE and other European standards in such a short period of time," Bruce George, special coordinator for the short-term observers, said at a news conference. "In our judgment, the people of this great country can be truly proud that yesterday they took a great step toward free and democratic elections by electing the next president of Ukraine."

Yanukovych dismissed that judgment, saying "only the blind couldn't see how many violations there were."

A Yushchenko spokeswoman, Irina Heraschenko, said the opposition was not worried by Yanukovych's planned appeal.

"He has the right to go to the courts," she said. "But his appeal should be based upon facts, not disappointment. And we haven't heard any facts."

She noted that Yanukovych's claim that 4.8 million people had been disenfranchised far exceeded any previous tally of the vote at home by the disabled, and that under the new regulations, everyone still had the right to apply for an at-home ballot.

Yanukovych also said he wanted his appeal heard by the entire Supreme Court of 85 judges, not the Supreme Court civil panel that overturned a Nov. 21 election in which Yanukovych was declared the official winner.

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