Ukrainian election dispute stirs up thugs and police
Canadian vote monitors cite 'serious problems in the tabulation of the results'
Nearly a week after Ukraine's parliamentary election, officials are still scrambling to tally votes in key districts, with the opposition and Canadian vote monitors saying it's an example of efforts to doctor the results.
Western observers — among whose ranks was a 500-member mission from Canada — have denounced Sunday's election as unfair.
The Canadian mission published its extensive concerns Friday, saying there were "serious problems" with the vote count and "terrible conditions" at polls.
The criticisms included:
- 8 districts still haven't finished counting ballots; election workers there, who are having to work without rest in "crowded, tense" premises, sometimes leave with election materials in hand before having sent in their tallies.
- "The process of tabulation in several cases is non-transparent, chaotic, and marred by violations."
- Ad-hoc changes in election protocols that don't go through the correct approvals process.
- "Serious problems with manipulation of electronic results." Notably, results on the central election commission's website have been altered in districts even after all polls have reported.
The mission said the issues are "evidence of attempts to purposefully manipulate results."
Police and tear gas
In last weekend's parliamentary race, President Viktor Yanukovych's party maintained its grip on power. But the campaign has been considered marred all along because the country's top opposition leader, former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, has been in jail since last year.
Among the irregularities, the opposition claims its candidate in Kyiv's precinct No. 223 defeated the pro-government one, but that election officials are trying to inflate the government loyalist's tally and under count opposition votes.
Election officials continued vote-tallying Friday amid shouts by the opposition and police fending off alleged pro-government thugs. In previous days, fistfights have occurred there and tear gas has been used.
Similar incidents have occurred in other regions, prompting the opposition to threaten street protests.
Initial results from the Ukrainian election have Yanukovych's Party of Regions at 186 seats, his Communist Party allies with 32, Tymoshenko's former faction at 104, various other opposition parties with 84 and independents with 44.
Canada's observer mission wasn't without its own controversies. It was mired in accusations of political tinkering when two former Liberal cabinet ministers were abruptly dropped from the team and a Conservative MP who had had his election win overturned was added.
With files from The Associated Press