* Opposition says will fight for 13 disputed districts
* Numbers of protesters at election offices dwindle
* Yanukovich leadership blocks bid for partial recount
By Richard Balmforth
KIEV, Nov 6 Ukraine's opposition sought on
Tuesday to keep up pressure over an election they say was
rigged, but the leadership of President Viktor Yanukovich
blocked their bid for a partial recount.
Deputies from Yanukovich's Party of the Regions traded
charges in parliament with the bloc of jailed ex-Prime Minister
Yulia Tymoshenko about an election where the ruling party seems
to have held its majority despite a strong opposition showing.
International monitors say the Oct. 28 election in the
former Soviet republic of 46 million was flawed in its run-up
and marred by attempts to massage results in the vote count.
Tymoshenko's Batkivshchyna (Fatherland), far-right
nationalists and a liberal party headed by boxing champion
Vitaly Klitschko, have held street protests over the election
despite winning seats in the 450-member parliament.
But the Yanukovich government signalled it would fight
opposition attempts to win a recount in 13 electoral districts
where they say their candidates were cheated out of victory.
"Once again we're hearing calls for destabilisation," said
Prime Minister Mykola Azarov, referring to the 2004-5 "Orange
Revolution" street protests against vote-rigging which doomed
Yanukovich's first bid for the presidency.
"We have no extra money for absurd ideas. The country has
held elections. It has formed a parliament. It will work
according to its schedule," he said.
The outgoing parliament, dominated by Yanukovich's party and
its allies, stalled opposition pressure for a partial recount by
setting up a committee to look into the issue.
Central electoral authorities on Monday offered to meet the
opposition half-way, proposing to hold a re-run of the vote in a
handful of districts. But Batkivshchyna rejected that and
deputies questioned whether election authorities had the right
to make such an offer.
Even if the 13 contested seats were to go to the opposition,
they would not upset the final outcome of the election in which
the Party of the Regions can secure a majority of more than 225
seats, assuming help from traditional parliamentary allies such
as the communists.
Yanukovich's pro-business Regions, which is financed by
wealthy industrialists, say they alone can provide stability in
the country which is a major exporter of steel and grain.
The opposition accuses the government of fostering
corruption and cronyism and wants to stop him securing a second
term as president in 2015.
Opposition leaders said they would press on with their
demands. But with the numbers of demonstrators at election
headquarters in Kiev down to just a few hundred, the steam
seemed to be running out of the protest.
Under election law, Ukrainian authorities have until Nov. 12
to announce preliminary overall results and binding official
results by Nov. 17.
"We are demanding that the central electoral committee
conduct a count of the vote (in the 13 districts) and announce
our candidates the winners," Arseny Yatseniuk, a former economy
minister who heads the united opposition in the absence of
Tymoshenko, told journalists.
"We will not vote for a farce. We will demand from President
Yanukovich that he be the guarantor of the constitution and not
the guarantor of fraud," he said.
Klitschko, the WBC world heavweight champion who heads the
UDAR (Punch) party, said: "Up to Nov. 12 we will continue to
keep up moral pressure on those at the central electoral
commission and the presidential administration and will show
them that votes should not simply be stolen."