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Nick Paton Walsh in Kiev and David Crouch, David Crouch28 Nov 2004 07:26
The crisis over Ukraine’s disputed presidential election deepened on Saturday as the country’s parliament voted to annul the results of last week’s poll and declared their lack of confidence in officials.
The latest vote—while not binding—brings closer the prospect of the country’s supreme court annulling the result and calling new elections, which could be held later this year.
The chamber passed by a large majority a resolution proclaiming the 21 November poll was invalid, subject to many irregularities and failing to reflect voters’ intentions.
The move came on the fifth day of mass protests at the alleged fixing of the election to give the prime minister Viktor Yanukovich a three-point lead over opposition candidate Viktor Yuschenko. The crisis has teetered on the brink of civil conflict, threat ening to become a full-scale ‘orange revolution’ - the colour of the opposition.
A huge cheer went up from the parliament gallery and floor as 255 of the 450 MPs voted to annul the results, which were officially declared on Wednesday night. 270 voted no confidence in the central election commission.
‘Now [President] Kuchma must sign off on it’, said Irina Gershenko, Yuschenko’s spokesman.
MP Oleg Ribachuk, the head of the Yuschenko campaign, said after the vote: ‘This is an almost ideal result for us. All we have left to work out is the date of the next vote, but that will be decided on Monday or Tues day.’ He said 12 or 19 December would be reasonable dates for fresh elections.
‘It would be political suicide for Yanukovich not to accept this decision,’ he added. ‘It shows parliament has no confidence in him and does not recognise him as the winner. And it shows we have no confidence in the central elections commission.’
He said that it was ‘almost impossible’ for the Supreme Court not to annul the results as they begin deliberation of opposition legal complaints tomorrow.
But even as Yuschenko’s supporters were celebrating, backers of Yanukovich - who is supported by around half the country, with his power base concentrated in the east - staged their own rally in Donyetsk, with speakers calling for autonomy for south and east Ukraine, threatening further schism in an already divided country.
A resolution read out to huge cheers at the end of the meeting stated: ‘Because of Yuschenko’s actions we are on the verge of civil war: we demand an immediate refer endum on autonomy for the Donyetsk region.’
Moscow, which has overtly backed Yanukovich, congratulating him on his victory and decrying US and EU ‘interference’ in the crisis modified its stance, saying yesterday another vote could be an acceptable outcome. The EU said yesterday that another vote was the best outcome. Bernard Bot, foreign minister to Holland, which holds the EU presidency, said: ‘It should happen soon - before the end of the year.’
The parliamentary declaration was the first breakthrough for the opposition after days of deadlock.
Protests that began out of disgust at alleged electoral violations have since expressed a broader discontent at the post-Soviet elite that has ruled Ukraine since independence in 1992. Yuschenko’s electoral complaints - many of which were echoed by the US, the EU, Nato, and international observers - have been a focus for this anger. Protesters continue to blockade key government buildings in Kiev. - Guardian Unlimited Â
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