Opposition Erects Tents In Ukrainian Capital To Protest Denial Of Election Registration

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine's main opposition force erected a tent camp in the center of the capital Sunday, protesting authorities' refusal to register its candidates for next month's parliamentary elections.

Activists of the Bloc Yulia Tymoshenko group, Ukraine's main opposition force led by former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, seen in poster at right, rally in front of the Central Election Commission office in downtown Kiev, Ukraine, Sunday, Aug. 12, 2007.

The Central Election Commission on Saturday declined to register candidates from the Bloc Yulia Tymoshenko group because the party had failed to state its members' exact addresses, raising new tensions ahead of the vote.

About 1,000 activists from Tymoshenko's bloc clad in white T-shirts displaying the bloc's logo — a red heart — rallied outside the commission building in downtown Kiev.

They put up more than 100 tents and said they would stay until they obtain the reversal of the decision, which they called politically driven.

The early parliamentary elections set for Sept. 30 defused a monthslong confrontation between President Viktor Yushchenko and his foe Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych that broke out after Yushchenko ordered the parliament dissolved.

But the refusal to register Tymoshenko's bloc — the leading opposition force — is likely to raise questions about the legitimacy of the vote.

Ukraine's stability is of interest both to the Kremlin and to the West, with Yushchenko pushing for Ukraine to join NATO and the European Union while Yanukovych is more oriented toward Russia.

About half of the Central Election Commission Members are loyal to Yanukovych, and Tymoshenko has accused him of being behind the decision.

She vowed to contest it in the courts.

Yanukovych's Party of Regions has rejected Tymoshenko's allegations and alleged that she was stirring up tensions in order to boost her popularity.

Tymoshenko's supporters vowed to maintain their vigil outside the election commission's office until it agrees to register the bloc's candidates.

"Bandits ... have denied half of Ukraine the right to vote," said Yuriy Klimovits, a 70-year-old retiree from western Ukraine wearing a white baseball hat emblazoned with the party's logo.

"Until they reverse their decision we will stand here, we will stand till victory," said Olha Zhurba, a 68-old Kiev pensioner.

Tymoshenko's bloc got support Sunday from Yushchenko's Our Ukraine-Our Self-defense party, which protested the denial of registration and urged the election commission to reverse its move.

Source: International Herald Tribune