KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukraine’s opposition parties on Tuesday pressed for a recount of votes in more than a dozen districts in a disputed parliamentary vote, but they appeared unable to mobilize mass protests to step up pressure on authorities.
Western observers described the Oct. 28 parliamentary election as unfair, saying the imprisonment of President Viktor Yanukovych’s arch-foe, former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, and non-transparent vote tallying were steps back for democracy. The opposition accuses the authorities of falsifying election results in 13 districts across the country, where they believe their candidates had won, in order to secure a firm parliamentary majority for Yanukovych’s loyalists.
Opposition leader Arseniy Yatsenyuk told a small rally Tuesday that he is rejecting an offer by election authorities to hold a brand-new vote in five of those races and insists on a re-tallying of votes in all contested districts.
“We are demanding that the Central Election Commission tally all the votes and declare our candidates the winners,” Yatsenyuk told a thin crowd of supporters rallying outside the Central Election Commission building in central Kiev. “They are not going to take our victory away from us!”
There was no immediate comment from the Central Election Commission, which was still in the process of tallying votes, nearly a week after the election. Prime Minister Mykola Azarov denounced the opposition’s attempt to “destabilize” the situation and expressed confidence that the new parliament will begin work in mid-December, as planned.
“The country has conducted an election and has formed a parliament and it will start its work in due time,” Azarov told reporters Tuesday, according to the Interfax news agency.
Another opposition leader, Oleh Tyahnybok, who heads the nationalist Svoboda (Freedom) party, urged supporters to be prepared to defend their votes by holding continued street protests.
But the opposition is undecided about what to do next and many Ukrainians are tired of politics after years of paralyzing infighting that followed the massive Orange Revolution protests against a fraudulent presidential vote in 2004. That means large-scale demonstrations are unlikely. Tuesday’s rally drew only some 200 supporters, much smaller than Monday’s protest.
While the proportional share of the vote was tallied relatively quickly, the count of votes in individual races took days and was still dragging on Tuesday, prompting brawls between government and opposition supporters, the use of tear gas and even the storming of one election commission by riot police.
“The political situation in Ukraine, post-election, is an absolute mess,” said Timothy Ash, head of emerging markets research at Standard Bank in London.
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