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Ukrainian Election Dispute Appears Near an End

Yanukovich, the candidate backed by the government and Russian President Vladimir Putin, had won a November run-off over opposition candidate Viktor Yushchenko, but the results of that election had been protested by tens of thousands of Ukrainians in the streets and were later thrown out by the country’s supreme court after it found evidence of widespread voter fraud.

Thursday’s decision completely rejected Yanukovich’s contention that the re-vote had suffered from similar ballot stuffing and other irregularities. Yushchenko has claimed victory in the re-vote, garnering some 2.3 million more votes than Yanukovich.

“The Central Election Commission (CEC) rules that the complaint by presidential candidate Viktor Yanukovich on irregularities ahead of voting will not be considered. The other parts of the complaint are also rejected,” deputy CEC head Maryna Stavniychuk said.

The voluminous filing had claimed thousands of suspected cases of ballot tampering and voter fraud. But in its finding Thursday, the electoral commission specifically found that problems were not widespread and could not account for the 2.3 million-vote victory.

“Evidence submitted in the claim does not prove mass violations” and could not “influence or effect the results of the vote,” said Stavniychuk

The prime minister has said he will not concede victory and, according to an aide, will file further legal challenges once the election commission publishes the official result. But even Yakunovich’s campaign manager offered little hope of stopping the election of Yushchenko.

“I could forecast the decision of the Supreme Court, but it would be wrong to take defeat for granted,” Taras Chornovyl told reporters after the vote.

Yushchenko, who claimed victory in Sunday’s election, issued a New Year’s greeting to Ukrainians, saying the election crisis had allowed the former Soviet state to take a “great step forward.”

“The vote has changed the country and it changed us,” he said in a message posted on his Web site.

Yushchenko has also started formulating his new government, backing the fiery opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko as prime minister.

Tymoshenko helped fuel the protests that followed the initial election that handed the presidency to Yanukovich in a vote widely seen as fraudulent. Protestors rallied behind Tymoshenko, many coming to call the former deputy prime minister a “goddess of revolution.”

Tymoshenko has been outspoken in the need to reform Ukraine’s government, going so far as to issue “Three Pieces of Advice to Yushchenko” even before he was elected.

“It’s necessary to start not with economic or social reforms, but with securing a free mass media. Otherwise, no reform is going to get results,” Tymoshenko advised in comments posted on her Web site.

“We have to get rid of corruption, dependency, pressure. We can’t delay on this,” she added.

Despite Yushchenko’s preparation for what most expect to be a challenging term as he seeks to reunite a deeply divide nation, he will not be officially certified as the winner until Yanukovich has exhausted all of his legal efforts to nullify the election.

Currently Yanukovich has four appeals before the supreme court alleging widespread rigging of the election, but analysts do not expect the court to back the prime minister’s claims.

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