Ukraine's Supreme Court yesterday ruled that presidential election results can be published before it completes hearing an appeal by the losing candidate, paving the way for the inauguration of Western-leaning reformer Viktor Yushchenko.
The court, responding to a motion by Yushchenko's camp, said the results could be published today. It was not immediately clear whether that meant the results would be able to be printed in the two official government newspapers, a precondition for the inauguration.
The decision came on the second day of the court's hearing of a complex appeal by former prime minister Viktor Yanukovych's camp regarding the Dec. 26 elections.
That voting was a rerun of a Nov. 21 election, in which Yanukovych was declared the winner, but that balloting was annulled by the Supreme Court after allegations of massive voting fraud.
Yanukovych in turn contended that last month's election was flawed because many people had been denied the opportunity to vote due to changes in absentee ballot regulations.
Yushchenko's camp contended the appeal essentially was an effort to postpone the inauguration as long as possible.
"This means the inauguration will happen," Mykola Katerinchuk, a Yushchenko representative at the court, said after the decision.
Olena Lukash, a lawyer who previously had represented Yanukovych, agreed with that interpretation, saying that publication means the Supreme Court and the Central Elections Commission cannot rescind the results.
"It is a politically motivated decision," complained one Yanukovych representative, Taras Chornovyl.
Officials could not immediately be reached to confirm whether an inauguration date would be set. Yushchenko aides had said previously that they were aiming for the inauguration to be Friday or Saturday.
After the decision, the court continued its session on the Yanukovych appeal, leaving open the possibility it could issue further rulings before the election results see print.
Much of the alleged fraud in the Nov. 21 vote was connected with misuse of absentee voting procedures that allowed people to cast multiple ballots.
After the Nov. 21 election, the parliament passed reforms eliminating absentee balloting.
But that provision was overturned by the Constitutional Court the day before last month's vote, leaving little time for many old and ailing people to make voting arrangements. Yanukovych's appeal focuses on that issue, claiming that large numbers of Ukrainians were denied the vote.
The court on Monday rejected several maneuvers by the Yanukovych camp, including a call to move the entire proceedings to the Administrative Court, which exists only on paper.
A presidential order creating the Administrative Court was issued in 2002, but steps to bring it into existence have not been implemented.
The court also rejected a motion to call the head of the Central Elections Commission as a witness and turned down a request for one of the judges to be excluded for saying the court had already dealt with major elements of the complaint.
The court has until Friday to decide on the appeal.