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IN THE NEWS - Ukraine's Presidential Election - 2004-11-27

Broadcast: November 26, 2004

I’m Steve Ember with IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English.

Ukrainian officials this week declared Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych the winner of Ukraine’s presidential election. They say he defeated opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko in the election last Sunday. Officials say Mister Yanukovych won forty-nine percent of the vote. They say Mister Yushchenko received forty-six percent.

But on Thursday, Ukraine’s Supreme Court stopped the Central Elections Commission from officially publishing the election results. The Supreme Court has agreed to hear objections from Mister Yushchenko and his supporters on Monday.

Mister Yushchenko says there was widespread cheating in the election. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the European Union and the United States also have criticized the vote. But Russian observers are dismissing the criticism. Russian President Vladimir Putin has praised the election as open and honest.

Since Monday, opposition supporters have demonstrated in Kiev and other cities to protest the official election results. On Friday, demonstrators blocked entrances to government offices in the capital. They also briefly stopped Prime Minister Yanukovych from entering his office. At the same time, many mineworkers who support him were entering the city.

The V-O-A reporter in Kiev has said there are fears that Ukraine could divide if the dispute is not dealt with quickly. Eastern Ukraine supported Mister Yanukovych in the election. The western part of the country supported Mister Yushchenko.

Some historians and political scientists say the two men represent a divide between Russia and Europe. Russia has deep economic, ethnic and language ties to Ukraine. It considers Ukraine an important ally. The Russian President attended election campaign events for Mister Yanukovych.

The Ukrainian Prime Minister wants to strengthen economic and political ties with Russia. Many of his supporters speak Russian. The areas where they live depend economically on Russia.

Most supporters of Mister Yushchenko mainly speak Ukrainian. Many live in Ukraine’s largest cities. Mister Yushchenko says he supports democratic reforms and wants to ease government controls. He also wants to increase ties between his country and the West.

One year ago, elections for parliament were held in Georgia. Public protests over that vote led Georgia’s President to resign.

On Friday, Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma met with the two candidates. European and Russian officials also attended the meeting. They included European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana and President Aleksander Kwasniewski of Poland. Later, Mister Kuchma announced the creation of a working group to end the election dispute. He said both candidates agreed to stand against any use of force to settle the crisis.

IN THE NEWS, in VOA Special English, was written by Jill Moss and Jerilyn Watson. I’m Steve Ember.