Parliament Rejects Bill Demanding Recount Of Vote

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukrainian lawmakers on Tuesday rejected demands for a total recount of the March 26 parliamentary vote, a victory for beleaguered President Viktor Yushchenko, who had declared the vote this ex-Soviet republic's most democratic ever.

Ukraine Parliament (L) and Mariinsky Palace (R)

The measure, supported by a number of smaller parties that failed to make it over the 3 percent barrier to enter parliament, received only 198 votes in favor, falling below the 226 it needed to pass.

The election's four top vote-getting parties refused to back it, saying they would support recounts only in individual precincts, based on court orders.

Parliament's decision would not have been binding, but a parliamentary call for a revote would have carried significant political weight and been an embarrassment for Yushchenko, who has focused on the election's democratic achievements rather than on his own party's poor third place showing. International observers also praised the vote as free and fair, noting that there were some irregularities but they did not appear to be systematic and did not influence the result.

"A (total) recount would lead to nowhere," said Vasyl Horbal of the Party of the Regions, which won the most votes in the March 26 race, taking 32 percent of the total. "It could ruin the election."

Bogdan Hubskiy, an ally of former Orange Revolution heroine Yulia Tymoshenko, accused the parties calling for the vote of "trying to hold onto their seats for a couple more months." Tymoshenko's party had a surprisingly strong showing in the election, winning 22 percent, far above the pro-Yushchenko Our Ukraine's 14 percent.

The parliamentary decision came as hundreds of demonstrators gathered outside the parliament building, waving flags of the minor parties, which now must depend on recounts in individual precincts for the hoped-for extra votes they need to enter parliament. The parties have complained that the lengthy vote count raised concerns of fraud.

The Central Election Commission has dismissed the allegations, blaming the four-day delay in releasing final preliminary results on technical problems and incompetence in some regional commissions.

Nestor Shufrych, whose party's defeat cost him his seat, said his party supported a recount, but that he personally opposed it. "We need to finish with this election," he said.

Lawmakers began the session with a 296-5 vote to strip local lawmakers of immunity from prosecution.

Source: AP