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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Ukrainian court suspends results of Ukraine's presidential election pending decision on appeal

The Associated Press
Wednesday, February 17, 2010; 9:26 AM

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine's presidential election results giving the victory to Russia-friendly Viktor Yanukovych were suspended Wednesday pending review of his rival's appeal.

Ukraine's Administrative Court said it would rule on Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko's appeal by Feb. 25, when lawmakers had planned to inaugurate Yanukovych.

Tymoshenko has refused to concede, claiming the election was tainted by fraud. Instead of stepping down as Yanukovych prodded her, she ordered her Cabinet to work out a plan for economic reform for the next five years.

Tymoshenko also attacked her rival on another front, launching consultations in parliament to derail Yanukovych's inauguration set for next week. Her campaign chief, Alexander Turchinov, said Wednesday that Tymoshenko's faction in parliament will introduce a motion to postpone the ceremony.

Until the ruling on her appeal, the court said, it was suspending the Central Election Commission's declaration that Yanukovych had won the Feb. 7 vote by just 3.5 percentage points.

International observers have deemed Ukraine's latest election free and fair, and President Barack Obama and other leaders have already congratulated Yanukovych.

But Tymoshenko urged a full re-count of the vote, delivering what she said was evidence to the court on Tuesday.

She asked her supporters, however, not to hold street demonstrations - as they did in what became known as the 2004 Orange Revolution.

Those pro-Western mass protests lead to a court's overturning Yanukovych's presidential election victory that year and ordering a rerun, which was won by Tymoshenko ally Viktor Yushchenko.

Years of infighting between Yushchenko and Tymoshenko deepened the nation's economic woes and helped Yanukovych mount a comeback. He campaigned on promises to improve ties with Russia, which became strained as pro-Western Yushchenko sought NATO and EU membership for Ukraine.

It was unclear how strong Tymoshenko's case in the appeal may be or whether the court would be likely to give it credence. Some Ukrainian court decisions are seen as influenced by politics more than by evidence.

Anna German, the vice chairwoman of Yanukovych's Party of Regions, dismissed the court deliberations as a "mere formality."

"These proceedings can't overturn the obvious: The majority of Ukrainians have voted for Yanukovych," she said. "The entire world has recognized Yanukovych's victory."

Viktor Nebozhenko, the head of the respected Ukrainian Barometer polling agency, predicted that the court will rule against Tymoshenko's appeal because many judges on the court support Yanukovych.

"Tymoshenko knows quite well that she has little chance of winning, but she will use the proceedings to make strong accusations," he said. "Tymoshenko's key goal is now to stay in the prime minister's seat. She has nothing to lose and is ready to offer promises and jobs."

Another Kiev-based political analyst, Vadim Karasyov, said that Tymoshenko's defiance will likely force Yanukovych to call early elections to attempt to win control over parliament, which appoints the prime minister.

"If Yanukovych fails to muster a majority to force Tymoshenko out, he has a choice of being a weak president under the strong prime minister, or risk early parliamentary elections," Karasyov said.

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