EU envoy to join talks on Ukraine poll deadlock
*** Javier Solana, the European Union's foreign policy chief, is among several international mediators due in Kiev on Monday to attempt to break a deadlock between Viktor Yushchenko, opposition leader, and outgoing President Leonid Kuchma over the terms of repeat presidential elections.
Tens of thousands of Mr Yushchenko's supporters on Sunday continued to celebrate Friday's Supreme Court decision cancelling the proclaimed November 21 victory of Viktor Yanukovich, the country's prime minister and Kuchma ally, and ordering a repeat vote on December 26.
The Central Election Commission, the controversial body that had named Mr Yanukovich the winner of the November 21 vote ahead of Mr Yushchenko, carried out the Supreme Court order to call a new election yesterday.
Mr Kuchma had Sunday night not commented on the ruling, which contradicted his position that a repeat vote would be unconstitutional. Mr Yanukovich's press secretary said he would run in the repeat vote, despite his belief that the ruling was “political” and had been adopted under pressure from the crowds.
Mr Yushchenko, Mr Kuchma, Mr Yanukovich and the speaker of parliament, Volodymyr Lytvyn, were expected to take part in talks on Monday with Mr Solana, Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski, the Russian parliament speaker Boris Gryzlov and other mediators.
The talks were expected to focus on Mr Yushchenko's demands for a new election commission and legislation to safeguard against electoral fraud. For his part, Mr Kuchma was expected to ask the mediators to lean on Mr Yushchenko to support changes to the constitution that would weaken the powers of the presidency.
Mr Yushchenko has already rejected the proposed changes, telling his supporters at the weekend: “The authorities understood that they won't see victory, that it is ours. And then this idea appeared to revise the authority of the president.”
On Saturday Mr Lytvyn and Olexander Moroz, the Socialist party leader, sided with Mr Kuchma in demanding that safeguards against voting fraud be adopted simultaneously with a constitutional changes weakening the presidency.
When Mr Yushchenko's faction voted in parliament against the package proposal, Mr Lytvyn and Mr Moroz's factions voted with Mr Kuchma's supporters to close parliament until its next regularly scheduled session on December 14.
One of Mr Yushchenko's allies, Yulia Tymoshenko, said she was confident Mr Yushchenko would win even if the current election commission and laws were left unchanged.
“The people are very, very clear they are waiting for justice,” Ms Tymoshenko told reporters on Sunday. “They are not aggressive but they are insistent. They will not go home until they have seen justice reign in the elections. . . The third round will be more democratic, I think.”
However, she said it was possible that Mr Kuchma could try to cancel or spoil the December 26 vote.
Another of Mr Yushchenko's allies, Olexander Zinchenko, suggested Mr Kuchma could be offered immunity from prosecution if he agreed to fair conditions for the re-vote. Mr Kuchma has been accused by a parliamentary committee of involvement in the murder of Georgy Gongadze, a journalist and critic, in 2000.
By Tom Warner in Kiev
Published: December 5 2004 18:25 | Last updated: December 5 2004 18:25
Publication of 12 5, 2004.