Ukraine tense as Tymoshenko moves to contest vote
Yulia Tymoshenko was refusing to concede her narrow defeat by Viktor Yanukovich in Sunday's Ukraine elections. Many say it's doubtful she can prove violations of fraud in the brief period allowed for court challenges.
Few Ukrainians could have been surprised to awake Tuesday morning to the news that Yulia Tymoshenko, the fiery heroine of the Orange Revolution, was refusing to concede her narrow electoral defeat at the hands of her old antagonist, Viktor Yanukovich, and that her supporters were planning to challenge it in the courts.Skip to next paragraph
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"I will never recognize the legitimacy of Yanukovich's victory with such elections," Ms Tymoshenko told close supporters late Monday, according to the online Ukrainska Pravda daily newspaper.
Members of her team said they were preparing a "strong case" would show the election was stolen by massive falsifications of the vote counting, and violations of election laws, mainly in Mr. Yanukovich's stronghold of eastern Ukraine.
"We have a lot of witnesses and evidence of irregularities in many polling stations, and this needs to be placed before the courts to determine whether the level of fraud was large enough to overturn the result," says Olga Bodnar, a parliamentary deputy with Tymoshenko's bloc.
"The margin [of Yanukovich's victory] is just 700,000 votes. That's not so much in a country of 48 million people," she says. "This issue definitely needs to be tested in court."
Doesn't like to accept defeat
Tymoshenko, a former energy tycoon who earned the sobriquet "gas princess" for her alleged wheeling-and-dealing business style, is held in awe by supporters and opponents alike for her legendary determination, charismatic public appeal, and formidable campaigning talents.
"It's not in Tymoshenko's nature to accept defeat," says Alexander Chernenko, chairman of the Committee of Ukrainian Voters, a grassroots monitoring group. "And she knows that her supporters would never forgive her if she failed to challenge Yanukovich's win."
Many experts agree that fraud is a perennial plague of Ukrainian elections, but most say it's doubtful enough specific violations can be proven in the 10 days or so allowed by Ukrainian law for court challenges to seriously call Yanukovich's victory into question.
With virtually all the votes counted and posted by Ukraine's Central Election Commission, Yanukovich had widened his lead to 3.4 percent, with 48.95 percent of the vote, followed by Tymoshenko with 45.48 percent.
On Monday, international election monitors all but explicitly called upon Tymoshenko to concede for the sake of Ukraine's stability.
"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," the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe observers said in a statement.
But experts appear divided. Some suggest that Tymoshenko is undermining her own carefully honed image as a champion of democracy and a sophisticated, Western-style politician.