As the second round of the Ukrainian presidential elections approaches, tensions are mounting in Kiev.
The Party of Regions candidate, Viktor Yanukovich, today succeeded in changing the rules governing the country’s electoral commission. The changes essentially mean fewer monitors have to be present when votes are counted and are widely seen as being designed to prevent his rival, Julia Tymoshenko, from deliberately voiding the elections by pulling people out of the count if she thinks she’s losing.
Oleksandr Stoyan, of the Party of Regions commented that before, if two thirds of the electoral commission were working but fewer deputies were present, then the commission was considered non-legitimate. “What does that mean?” he asked. “If for example two people were ill and didn’t arrive in say, Donetsk Region, that means the electoral commission wouldn’t be quorate and couldn’t work. But two people could become ill in Lviv Region where The Tymoshenko Block has the majority. We want objective decisions!”
In response, Tymoshenko accused her rival of preparing to rig the votes at the forthcoming election. She has already accused Yanukovich of being a coward, when he refused to attend a televised debate with her.
Last time that Yanukovich won a presidential election (in 2004) he was never inaugaurated as accusations of corruption and vote-rigging resulted in the Orange Revolution which swept Viktor Yushchenko to power.
In the first round of voting, Yanukovich won 35% of the votes, against Tymoshenko’s 25% but she appears to be narrowing the gap, picking up votes from defeated candidates.
The race is on and both sides appear to be playing hardball.