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12/10/04 - UKRAINIAN ELECTION  - 2004-12-10

Ukrainian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych and opposition candidate Viktor Yushchenko are likely to face each other in a presidential run-off election December 26th. The election was scheduled after Ukraine's supreme court invalidated the November 21st presidential run-off. The high court ruled that that vote was tainted by widespread manipulation and fraud. As a result, the court is calling for a repeat vote to be held December 26th.

The supreme court also said that the Ukrainian Central Election Commission violated the law. It called for electoral irregularities and abuses to be investigated and prosecuted.

Ukraine's supreme court decision was hailed by many Ukrainians and others around the world. Mykola Katerinchuk is a lawyer for Mr. Yushchenko:

"The court's message to Ukraine was that the law in Ukraine exists and nobody has the possibility to beat [violate] the law and to do something illegal; he will be punished."

The United States also commended the ruling by Ukraine's high court. Here is U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher:

"We welcome the decision of the supreme court nulling the results of the November 21st vote due to evidence of widespread irregularities and fraud. What is important now is to move ahead quickly, as called for by the supreme court, to ensure a new vote that is fair, free, and that results in an outcome that reflects the will of the Ukrainian people."

On December 8th, Ukraine's parliament passed a law that changed Ukraine's electoral procedures and the membership of the Central Election Commission. The opposition wanted these changes in order to prevent fraud in the December 26th vote. The compromise legislation also transferred many of the powers of the presidency to the parliament. This was sought by outgoing Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma's administration. U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell praised the new law.

Ukrainians are demanding the freedom to decide for themselves who their new president will be. Secretary of State Powell said, "We hope that the upcoming election will be free, fair, open, well-supervised, so that there'd be no question about the validity of the results."