Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Democracy Marching All Over the Place

Elections in Ukraine. Why does this sound so familiar?

"A concerted and forceful program of election-day fraud and abuse was enacted with either the leadership or cooperation of governmental authorities," the senator [Lugar] said Monday in Kiev.


Mr. Yushchenko,
[the challenger and presumptive loser] himself a former prime minister, has described the incumbent bloc of state power as crooked and hidebound,


[Mr. Yushchenko] support in the capital, and among young voters, is palpably high. His campaign - deprived of equal media coverage and pressured by the resources of the Ukrainian state, according to the reports of international observers - has adopted the tactics of the underdog.

The victory for the prime minister, by a margin of nearly 3 percentage points, that was given in official results diverged sharply from a range of surveys of voters at polling places that gave the opposition as much as an 11-point lead. Opposition organizers pushed for protest and mass action.

Mr. Yushchenko, addressing the public, began a multipronged effort to block Mr. Yanukovich's claim on office. He urged his supporters to remain united and in the streets, and called for an urgent session of Parliament to review extensive allegations of state manipulation of the election, and for the judiciary to investigate documented complaints.


The findings of the international election mission included abuse of state resources in favor of the prime minister; the addition of about 5 percent of new voters to the rolls on election day; pressure on students to vote for the state's choice; pressure on state workers to turn over absentee ballot forms for presumptive use by someone else; widespread abuse of absentee voters, including some who were bused from region to region; the blocking of poll workers; suspiciously, even fantastically, high turnouts in regions that supported the prime minister; inaccurate voter lists and overt bias of state-financed news media.


"Fundamental flaws in Ukraine's presidential election process subverted its legitimacy," the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, sponsored by the Democratic Party in the United States, declared in its preliminary report. The institute, which had an observer mission in Ukraine, cited "systematic intimidation, overt manipulation and blatant fraud" that were "designed to achieve a specific outcome irrespective of the will of the people."


He then worried aloud that what seemed to be the election's illegitimacy might serve to split Ukraine into a north and west supporting Mr. Yushchenko, and a region in the east supporting the prime minister.

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