Thursday, October 28, 2004

Ukrainian Candidate Vows to Protest Any Voting Fraud

Ukrainian Candidate Vows to Protest Any Voting Fraud (Update1)

Oct. 27 (Bloomberg) -- Ukrainian presidential candidate Viktor Yushchenko,
who polls show is the frontrunner to succeed Leonid Kuchma, said he'll urge
supporters to stage protests on any signs of electoral fraud in the vote
beginning Oct. 31.
Yushchenko, 50, Ukraine's prime minister from 2000 to 2001, says he was
poisoned during the campaign. International observers from the European
Union and other groups will monitor the election amid accusations by
opposition parties that Kuchma's administration will try to prevent a fair
``We can change the current circumstances only by massive public action,''
said Yushchenko in an interview in his office in Kiev. ``And in case of
attempts to falsify the outcome of the vote, I will be calling on the nation
to do that.''
Ukraine, the world's sixth-biggest producer of wheat and second-biggest
exporter of coke, is also the conduit for gas and oil exported from Russia
to the rest of Europe. Russia supplies about a quarter of the gas consumed
in western Europe and has agreed to use Ukrainian pipelines through 2013.
With a population of 47 million, Ukraine ranked 122 out of 145 countries in
Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index for 2004, trailing
Uzbekistan and Zimbabwe. Human Rights Watch said Kuchma's administration
``blatantly violates freedom of expression'' in the media. The International
Monetary Fund hasn't lent Ukraine money since 2001, when the fund said
Kuchma's government failed to honor its agreements.
Poll Lead
In the election for the third Ukrainian president since the country won
independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, Yushchenko would win 34 percent
of the vote, according to a poll conducted in the first two weeks of
September by the Democratic Initiatives Foundation and the Socios Center.
Current Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, 54, would take 28 percent, the
poll found.
Yushchenko would win 43 percent of the vote in a second round, while
Yanukovych would get 36 percent, the poll of 2,000 respondents showed. The
poll, conducted nationwide between Sept. 1 and Sept. 16, had a margin of
error of 2.2 percentage points. The second round of balloting will be held
at least two weeks from Oct. 31 if no candidate wins a majority.
Yushchenko and his supporters accuse the government of trying to prevent him
from campaigning and poisoning him. Yushchenko fell ill in September and was
treated in Austria. Ukraine's Prosecutor General office closed a two-week
investigation, saying it didn't have any proof he was poisoned. Yushchenko's
face is still swollen and his skin is damaged. The government denies any
Protest Marches
In Kiev, the country's wealthiest city with a population of 3 million, as
many as 100,000 people marched through the city center in support of
Yushchenko on Oct. 22. His opponent Yanukovych is seeking a special ruling
from the Central Electoral Committee to ban street protests on the day of
the election, according to 5 Kanal television, the country's only
independent broadcaster, which is threatened by closure by the government.
``The nation is at a very important point and the best choice would be to
let it choose,'' Yushchenko said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin yesterday praised Yanukovych for his record
in promoting economic growth, calling him and Kuchma his ``friends.''
While saying he regrets the collapse of the Soviet Union, Putin, 52, called
any attempts to restore the former superpower ``counterproductive'' and said
there's no plan for the re- unification of former Soviet republics.
Investigation Promised
Yushchenko said he would investigate Kuchma's administration, which he and
other opposition politicians accuse of involvement in the murder of
journalists and illegal sales of state assets, should he win the election.
Kuchma denies the accusations.
``I'm convinced that people must know the truth, including the case of
Georgy Gongadze,'' an independent journalist whose headless body was found
in forest near Kiev in 2000, Yushchenko said. ``I won't be trying to stop
legal processes that would give true answers to one or another of
Yushchenko also said he would withdraw Ukrainian troops that are serving in
Iraq following the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, a move that is also supported
by Yanukovych.
The IMF predicts that Ukraine's $50 billion economy will grow as much as
12.5% this year, the fifth consecutive year of expansion, supported by
rising domestic demand and gains in prices of commodity exports including
metals and coke.
Ukraine, which was the world's sixth-biggest exporter of wheat in 2002,
expects to begin exporting as much as 9 million metric tons of grain again
this year after losing most of its 2003 crop to bad weather.
Kuchma's Candidate
Kuchma, 66, is backing Yanukovych after deciding not to run for a third
five-year term. Kuchma took office in 1994, promising to make Russian the
official language of Ukraine, which borders Russia to the east, Belarus to
the north and Slovakia, Poland and Moldova to the west and south.
Yushchenko was ousted as prime minister in 2001 by parliament with Kuchma's
backing. He set up Our Ukraine, a group of opposition parties that won
parliamentary elections in March 2002 and remains the largest group in the
450-seat parliament. In Ukraine, the president nominates the prime minister
and most of the government and the parliament approves or reject the
Yushchenko won praise from the IMF, World Bank and EU for his efforts to cut
bureaucracy, reduce corruption and improve relations with other nations
during his term as prime minister.
He said in the interview he would speed up asset sales, cut taxes and
consider rescheduling some government debts to help sustain economic growth
and improve living standards if elected.
``For me and my government, the most important thing will be not how to get
back to 1991 and start privatization from scratch, but how to improve
relations between the state and business,'' Yushchenko said. ``There should
be new rules of conduct. Business should trust the government and the
government should secure the rule of law.''


Post a Comment

<< Home