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Ukraine tense as election fraud allegations fly

The Ukraine Central Election Commission posted an announcement late Monday on its website showing Viktor Yanukovich is in the lead to be Ukraine's next president. But his main rival Yulia Tymoshenko is alleging fraud.

By / February 8, 2010

Supporters of Ukrainian opposition leader and presidential candidate Viktor Yanukovych celebrate his victory during a massive rally in front of the Central Election Commission, in Kiev, Monday.

Vasily Fedosenko / Reuters

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Kiev, Ukraine

Ukraine held its breath Monday as glacial official vote counting see-sawed between Orange Revolution rivals Yulia Tymoshenko and Viktor Yanukovich.

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The streets of the capital, Kiev, are still peaceful. And nobody expects a replay of 2004's Orange Revolution, when thousands of protesters laid siege to the central Maidan square until an allegedly rigged election, won by Mr. Yanukovich, was overturned and fresh voting brought the Orange leader Viktor Yushchenko to power. But the mood is tense.

The winner is almost certainly Yanukovich, by a slender margin, just as most exit polls had predicted.

Ukraine's Central Election Commission posted an announcement late Monday on its website saying that, with 98.5 percent of ballots counted, Yanukovich had 48.6 percent and Tymoshenko 45.8 percent.

"It's going to be impossible to dispute Yanukovich's victory; his margin is almost a million votes," says Dmytro Vydrin, deputy secretary of President Yushchenko's National Security and Defense Council, an official advisory body. "Tymoshenko will protest, but society is clearly not in the mood to join her in the streets this time."

Fraud allegations fly

But tensions continued. Allegations of fraud in Sunday's voting were flying fast and furious all day Monday, while lawyers for both sides were gathering in Kiev's Supreme Administrative Court in preparation for extensive legal challenges

Tymoshenko, who many describe as an indefatigable political fighter, remained silent through the day, postponing a press conference until Tuesday. Experts said that her lawyers were blocking vote tallies from Lugansk and Crimea -- Yanukovich strongholds -- and claiming that massive fraud had taken place.

A clean bill of health

International election monitors, however, endorsed the election as relatively clean and fair. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which fielded the largest delegation of observers, said in a statement Monday that the voting was "professional, transparent, and honest."

"Yesterday's vote was an impressive display of democratic elections. For everyone in Ukraine, this election was a victory," the observers, headed by OSCE, said in a statement. "It is now time for the country's political leaders to listen to the people's verdict and make sure that the transition of power is peaceful and constructive."