Ukraine Election Results Debated in Courts
[Sorry, the video for this story has expired, but you can still read the transcript below. ]
JULIAN MANYON: Once again, they came to parliament in the thousands, and soon, the building was engulfed in orange. Order is now kept by men in paramilitary uniforms, Yushchenko’s “soldiers of free Ukraine.”
The crowd heard deputies decide to modify the normal rules and vote by secret ballot. Since parliament decided that the vote should be in secret, it’s the opposition that has started winning the counts.
They’ve already voted that the president should do everything possible to achieve stability. And now, the result of another count is coming out. Inside, they voted on the key resolution– to sack the government of the prime minister, Viktor Yanukovich.
It was passed by three votes. Opposition MP’s went wild with joy over a victory that is largely symbolic but dramatically boosts their “people’s power” revolution. Outside, thousands celebrated.
The vote has no legal force unless President Kuchma approves it, but it is a heavy blow against the prime minister, who they accuse of trying to steal an election.
WOMAN: I am very excited. And I am very proud of my country, of my name.
JULIAN MANYON: As they emerged, opposition MP’s were acclaimed as heroes, but the prime minister’s key henchmen was booed and pursued down the street. All day, European mediators have been working for compromise between the two sides.
Tonight, outgoing President Leonid Kuchma announced what has been agreed: No use of violence, and opposition demonstrators to end their blockade of official buildings.
The next step will be the Supreme Court decision on the elections themselves. But at least the two rivals managed a brief handshake as they wait for the next round in this grueling contest.
JIM LEHRER: And earlier this evening, Margaret Warner spoke by telephone to New York Times reporter Steven Lee Myers in Kiev.
MARGARET WARNER: Steve Myers, welcome. Thanks for joining us. Did any of the to’ing and fro’ing we saw today, either in the parliament or in the negotiations, move the situation any closer to a resolution?
STEVEN LEE MYERS: I think what we saw with the negotiations tonight was the beginnings of the compromise that will resolve the election dispute.
What they agreed on was a series of measures that both sides accepted, but the most significant one perhaps is an agreement to pursue political reform.
This is a sweeping constitutional amendment that Kuchma had… President Kuchma presented in March of this year, and it was rejected by the parliament. But essentially what it would do is shift the powers from the presidency to the parliament and specifically the prime minister.
MARGARET WARNER: That sounds like a very long-range thing. Why is that essential to resolving this immediate crisis over who is going to be the next president?
STEVEN LEE MYERS: Well, it seems, according to many people on both sides, that what President Kuchma has done is revised this issue as a way of essentially diminishing the power of the presidency.
In that case then there could be a new election that many people believe Viktor Yushchenko would win in a fair election, and that then would allow him to essentially take office, though with diminished power,, would still leave President Kuchma with considerable power to appoint a new prime minister, perhaps a loyal prime minister, essentially before he leaves office.
MARGARET WARNER: So why would Yushchenko, who signed this agreement this afternoon, why would he be interested in pursuing that?
STEVEN LEE MYERS: Well, partly… it’s very complicated, the politics here. But he, you know, leads a coalition in the parliament that includes the socialist party, who favors this reform, essentially creating more of a parliamentary republic rather than a presidential one.
And many people believe that he essentially has had to accept this in order to keep his coalition.
MARGARET WARNER: All right, now, explain how all this is going to relate to the Supreme Court decision?
First of all, why is the Supreme Court taking so long to rule on whether the election was invalid? What’s going on at the core?
STEVEN LEE MYERS: Well, actually, I don’t think the Supreme Court has taken that long. They began hearings on Monday.
The amazing thing is they’re televised and you’re able to watch what seems to be a fairly objective hearing of the complaints by Mr. Yushchenko’s camp that this election was essentially stolen by the government.
You know, it has only been three days now. Most people seem to expect this court could rule either tomorrow or Friday, within days anyway. And they’re hearing a lot of evidence.
And today, in another strange twist, Viktor Yanukovich, the prime minister, who was declared the winner, essentially put in an appeal that there was always votes-rigging that went on on behalf of Mr. Yushchenko, but essentially it added ammunition to Mr. Yushchenko’s argument that there was considerable fraud in this election.
So many people now expect that the court will actually rule that this election was so fraudulent that it can’t be accepted.
MARGARET WARNER: And so, if and when that happens, let’s say the court rules that way, then are there procedures in place for what would happen next or would that decision go back to the political players then to negotiate, say, about a new election?
STEVEN LEE MYERS: Well, that’s part of what was being discussed today in the meetings mediated by the European diplomat. I think that they’re seeking a political solution.
One of the other things they agreed on today was the forum, what they called a working group, to immediately consider how to implement the court’s decision.
I mean, no one will say they know what the court is going to rule, but there does seem to be an expectation that the election will be ruled invalid, and it raises all sorts of questions about how do you hold a new election?
Do you hold a runoff between the two men again, or do you hold an entirely new election process, beginning from the start, which is what President Kuchma said today should happen?
MARGARET WARNER: And Yushchenko wants just a rerun of the second round that just took place. Now, explain why they have those different demands or objectives.
STEVEN LEE MYERS: Well, I think Mr. Yushchenko thinks he won, and he thinks in a fair vote he would easily beat the prime minister, Yanukovich.
I think that their… motivation for having a whole new election seems to be that President Kuchma and his supporters might ditch Yanukovich in favor of another candidate.
MARGARET WARNER: And meanwhile, while all these machinations and maneuverings are going on, how stable does the situation appear to be in the streets?
In other words, does it appear to you that anything is in danger of getting out of control here, or can this process go on for a couple of more weeks?
STEVEN LEE MYERS: Well, I’ll tell you, one of the things that’s really struck me and is often not seen on the part of… or I should say not accepted by the Yanukovich camp or certainly in Russia, is that the mood on the street is extraordinarily peaceful.
It’s almost electric. The people there are certainly nonviolent. They’re very disciplined. The mood is a festive one, I would say.
Yesterday, though, there was a tense moment when the parliament also took up a vote of “no confidence” and failed, and then there was a vote to try to annul the parliament’s decision to declare the election invalid.
And a number of protesters stormed the barricades and got into the lobby of the parliament building, and there was a scuffle with the security people before they got them all out again.
I think that that was a sense that the… that the crowd, like any large crowd, is a volatile thing.
MARGARET WARNER: Steve Myers, thank you so much.
STEVEN LEE MYERS: Thank you.