Ukraine's parliament met yesterday in a marathon weekend session to pass laws needed to rerun a presidential runoff ordered by the Supreme Court in a major victory for opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko.
The court on Friday threw out the official results of last month's runoff election between Yushchenko and his Kremlin-backed rival, Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, ruling that a repeat vote must be held on Dec. 26. The opposition claimed the runoff was rigged in favor of Yanukovych, and Western governments refused to recognize the results.
Yanukovych's camp said yesterday that the prime minister had decided to participate in the runoff, as widely expected.
"There's no other way but to participate and win," Yanukovych's spokeswoman Anna Herman said.
Ukraine's Central Election Commission, meanwhile, acted on the court decision and formally set the date for Dec. 26.
Yushchenko's supporters in parliament were pushing for changes in the membership of the 15-member Central Election Commission and the election law in hopes of preventing vote fraud.
"We are all hoping for a clean election and why shouldn't it be? We have shown them what happens when they steal our votes," said Orest Kret, 46, as he tinkered with his car -- decked out in pro-Yushchenko orange -- near a tent camp where he and tens of thousands of other opposition supporters have massed for 12 days of protests.
The Ukrainian legislature was also expected to demand that President Leonid Kuchma fire Yanukovych and appoint a new Cabinet following a non-binding no-confidence vote earlier this week, parliamentary speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn said late on Friday.
Friday's court ruling brought jubilation in the streets of Kiev, with a massive crowd of Yushchenko backers chanting his name, blowing horns and waving balloons and orange flags.
"We have proven that we are a nation that could defend our choice," Yushchenko told his supporters gathered at Independence Square, the epicenter of the opposition protests.
"We have changed the nation in the last 12 days. These are different people, they are now citizens," he said.
Yushchenko scheduled another rally for yesterday, urging his supporters not to abandon their demonstration in the square.