* Count in Oct. 28 vote in some districts contested
* Opposition accuses ruling party of stealing votes
* Riot police surround protesters
By Pavel Polityuk and Richard Balmforth
KIEV, Nov 5 Ukraine's opposition demanded a
recount or a re-run in 13 constituencies on Monday, stepping up
its campaign against the results of last month's parliamentary
election which it says was rigged by President Viktor
Yanukovich's ruling party.
Opposition leaders pressed their demands in talks on Monday
night with election officials as 1,500 supporters remained
outside the electoral commission's headquarters in Kiev to
protest against alleged fraud in the Oct. 28 vote.
After a day of tension, the commission said it was ready to
stage a re-run in five of the disputed electoral districts, but
that would require parliament's approval and might not
completely defuse the situation.
Opposition leaders emerging from the talks welcomed the
announcement which they said was better than allowing a Regions
party victory. They said they would continue to campaign for a
just result and encouraged their supporters to stay on the
"We are demanding that the Central Electoral Commission
announce the result of voting in 13 districts where, according
to the final tally, the opposition won," Arseny Yatsenyuk,
leader of the united opposition said.
"In those cases where it is impossible to establish the
result a re-run should be announced," he told reporters at the
Prime Minister Mykola Azarov said on Friday the ruling Party
of the Regions had nothing to do with the incidents at the
centre of the disputes, saying the overall results - which he
said had handed victory to his party - were in line with
exit-polls and pre-election surveys.
Even if the opposition was declared the winner in the
disputed electoral districts the Regions would still keep its
parliamentary majority as long as it had the support of its
traditional communist allies and some independents.
However, a revision of the results could help galvanise
anti-Yanukovich forces which have lost momentum since the
jailing of Yulia Tymoshenko, one of the opposition's most
prominent leaders and a former prime minister.
"WE ARE NOT ACCEPTING THE CHEATING"
The demand for a revision was signed by Tymoshenko's
Batkivshchyna (Fatherland) party, Svoboda (Freedom) nationalists
and the UDAR (Punch) party of boxing champion Vitaly Klitschko,
and follows international criticism of the election in the
former Soviet republic.
"We are not accepting the cheating that is going on," said
Klitschko, who is WBC world heavyweight champion.
The numbers of protesters who have taken to the streets so
far is much fewer than the tens of thousands who massed in Kiev
in the winter of 2004-5 in what became known as the "Orange
Those protests were also directed at an allegedly rigged
election and doomed Yanukovich's first bid for the presidency,
but he staged a comeback and beat Tymoshenko in a run-off vote
for president in February 2010.
Anger erupted in several electoral districts at the weekend,
with election officials conducting the vote-count besieged by
opposition supporters and members of the Regions party. Riot
police used teargas to quell trouble in one district.
Observers from Europe's OSCE rights and security body
criticised misuse of state money and resources and biased media
coverage in the vote run-up, saying democracy had taken a "step
backwards" since Yanukovich was elected in February 2010.
Assuming traditional support from its communist allies and
independents, Yanukovich's Regions party is expected to have a
working majority in the 450-seat parliament,
Yanukovich is likely to interpret an overall Regions victory
as a mandate to continue policies which opponents say favour the
big business industrialists who back him.
However, it is likely his leadership will be cold-shouldered
by the United States and the European Union over the
imprisonment of Tymoshenko. The EU has already refused to settle
a major free trade pact because of her case.
Opposition leaders Yatsenyuk, Svoboda's Oleh Tyahnybok and
the two-metre-tall Klitschko - said they were prepared to refuse
to recognise the election and boycott parliament if their
demands were not met.
They have criticised Yanukovich's leadership for corruption
and cronyism, saying they will work together to defeat him when
he seeks re-election in 2015.
On the streets of Kiev, opposition supporters said the
integrity of the elections had to be protected.
"We have turned out to defend the interests of simple people
who have voted and whose votes have been stolen. We are ready
for other kinds of action if need be," said Yuri Derkach, 45, a
supporter of Svoboda.