Opposition demand recounts in "stolen" Ukraine election
By Pavel Polityuk and Richard Balmforth
KIEV (Reuters) - Ukraine's opposition demanded a recount or a fresh vote in a dozen hotly contested constituencies on Monday, stepping up their campaign against a parliamentary election last month they say was rigged by President Viktor Yanukovich's ruling party.
Hundreds of people gathered outside the Central Electoral Commission headquarters in the capital Kiev to protest against fraud in the October 28 vote, defying warnings by police that the protest was illegal and might be broken up by force.
An opposition victory in the disputed electoral districts would still leave the president's Party of the Regions with a parliamentary majority, but could help galvanise anti-Yanukovich forces that have lost momentum since the jailing of their leader, ex-Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko.
"We are demanding that the Central Electoral Commission announce the result of voting in 13 districts where, according to the final tally, the opposition won," Arseny Yatsenyuk, leader of the united opposition said.
"In those cases where it is impossible to establish the result a re-run should be announced," he told journalists at commission headquarters in Kiev where the rally was staged.
The demand for action was signed by Tymoshenko's Batkivshchyna (Fatherland) party, Svoboda (Freedom) nationalists and the UDAR (Punch) party of heavyweight boxing champion Vitaly Klitschko, and follows international criticism of the election in the former Soviet republic.
Prime Minister Mykola Azarov on Friday said the Regions had nothing to do with the disputes at the centre of the latest protests, and said the overall results were in line with exit-polls and pre-election surveys.
Anger erupted in several electoral districts at the weekend, with election officials conducting the vote-count besieged by opposition supporters and members of the Regions party. Riot police used tear gas to quell trouble in one district. Continued...