- The Washington Times - Monday, December 6, 2004

KIEV — Ukraine’s opposition yesterday set forth three demands designed to reduce fraud in the nation’s Dec. 26 election rerun, insisting that tens of thousands of protesters would remain in the capital’s central square until the demands were met.

“We should dedicate the next three days to fulfilling three demands,” opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko said during an address to the crowds in freezing rain on Independence Square in what has become a nightly tradition.

He demanded that outgoing President Leonid Kuchma:

• Dismiss the Cabinet of Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych — Mr. Yushchenko’s opponent in the disputed election — in response to a no-confidence vote last week in parliament.

• Establish a new Central Election Commission (CEC) to supervise the Dec. 26 election in response to a similar no-confidence vote.

• Ensure changes to the election law that would end the use of absentee ballots and voting from home — two methods the opposition says were used to falsify the earlier vote.

The Supreme Court on Friday annulled Nov. 21 presidential-election results and ordered it to be rerun the day after Christmas.

The opposition party failed to push an election-reform package through the parliament on Saturday, but a senior opposition official said earlier that the party was confident of a landslide victory even without the reform measures.

Mr. Yushchenko also said there should be new local election commissions, on which he and Mr. Yanukovych are equally represented. He has demanded the same in the new CEC.

Until all of their questions are decided, he told the protesters, their blockade of major government buildings should continue.

Mr. Yushchenko also said parliamentary leaders would meet today to try to resolve a deadlock over attempts to effect many of the same changes in parliament.

Speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn adjourned the legislature for 10 days on Saturday, but the opposition has called for a special session this week.

Yulia Tymoshenko, one of Mr. Yushchenko’s closest allies, told reporters yesterday that she expected the government would use fraud again on Dec. 26, but that this time, it would fail.

She said Mr. Yushchenko’s victory was assured because the public would keep a watchful eye over election officials and the press had become more “honest” in its reporting about the opposition leader.

Government-controlled media outlets favored Mr. Yanukovych in the first round, but many have promised more balanced coverage in the future.

“We are confident of a colossal victory by Yushchenko,” Mrs. Tymoshenko said, adding that fewer government officials are now willing to falsify the vote. “Something has changed, thanks to the people.”

In a historic decision on Friday, the Supreme Court ruled that the Nov. 21 presidential election was so fraudulent that it did not reflect the will of the people and scheduled the new balloting.

The opposition also was able to garner enough support in parliament last week to pass a no-confidence vote in Mr. Yanukovych’s government. But Mr. Yanukovych said he did not recognize the vote, and Mr. Kuchma has refused to fire the Cabinet.

An attempt to secure electoral reforms in parliament failed over the weekend when the opposition split, with Socialist Party leader Alexander Moroz seeking to reduce presidential powers and Mr. Yushchenko’s party refusing.

Mr. Yanukovych continues to lose support from one-time supporters. Parliament member Stepan Havrysh, who represented him in the election commission and at the Supreme Court, said he thought the prime minister should withdraw from the race.

The opposition is clearly counting on the public to keep fraud to a minimum. Thousands of people were seen yesterday filling out forms that will be used to help the opposition determine how best they could contribute to the campaign during the next three weeks. Cabdrivers sat patiently as demonstrators leaned on their cars filling out forms.

Mrs. Tymoshenko said the hundreds of thousands of demonstrators who have clogged Independence Square for the past two weeks would not leave until they felt justice was served.

“They are not aggressive, but they are insistent,” she said. “They will not go home until they have seen justice reign in the elections. … The third round will be more democratic, I think.”

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