Wed, Dec 29, 2004 - Page 7 News List

Yanukovych says he will not concede

DISPUTED RESULT?Although most observers said there was a marked improvement in the country's election rerun, the PM will not give in

AP , KIEV, UKRAINE

Opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko celebrated his unassailable lead in Ukraine's presidential election rerun, but his opponent refused to concede defeat Monday, saying he would challenge the results in the Supreme Court.

"I will never recognize such a defeat, because the Constitution and human rights were violated in our country," Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych told reporters.

Official results from Sunday's vote, with ballots counted from 99.89 percent of precincts, gave Yushchenko 52.01 percent compared to Yanukovych's 44.18 percent. Turnout was 77.2 percent.

Yushchenko's 2.3 million vote lead was insurmountable: fewer than 100,000 votes remained to be counted from 75 polling stations. Once the election commission releases its final preliminary results, both candidates have seven days to appeal.

The vote was a rerun of the Nov. 21 runoff, which the Supreme Court annulled after allegations of widespread fraud. Yanukovych had been named the winner of the earlier vote.

Yanukovych said his campaign team had nearly 5,000 complaints about how the voting was conducted.

He criticized lawmakers who approved election law reforms restricting home voting, and blamed the ruling for leading to the reported deaths of eight elderly voters who went to the polls despite ill health -- and despite the Constitutional Court's decision on the eve of the vote to throw out the restrictions.

He said he would demand the election results be canceled, but said he had not asked his supporters to organize protests.

"We will act in accordance with the laws of Ukraine. We will go down a legal path," Yanukovych said.

Later, however, he said he had lost respect for the court after it annulled the Nov. 21 results, which Yushchenko's camp, international observers and even members of the Central Electoral Commission assailed as fraudulent.

"It breached the constitution and the law," he said. "Today, I can't have faith in such a chamber."

An international observer delegation said Monday that Ukraine had made progress toward meeting international standards for free and fair elections.

"It is our judgment that the people of this great country have made a great step forward to free and fair elections by electing their future president," said Bruce George, the head of the delegation from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and other election watchdogs.

Tension during the fiercely fought election campaign was fueled by the fraud allegations and Yushchenko's claims to have been poisoned by authorities in an assassination attempt. Doctors confirmed he was poisoned by a nearly lethal amount of dioxin, which severely disfigured his face.

Yushchenko will need monthly blood tests to track how quickly the poison is leaving his body. Experts say it is likely to dissipate quickly in the first few months but then slow down. Doctors have said they expect a gradual recovery, although they fear an increased long-term risk of a heart attack, cancer or other chronic diseases.

Meanwhile, an official accused by the opposition of helping engineer fraud in the November runoff, Transport Minister Heorhiy Kirpa, was found dead Monday with a gunshot wound, said Railways spokesman Eduard Zanyuk.

The opposition had claimed that Kirpa authorized special trains to ferry Yanukovych supporters from precinct to precinct to vote multiple times. It was unclear whether his death was related to the election.

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