Ukrainian Election Commission Refuses To Register Opposition Bloc's Candidates

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine's elections commission on Saturday refused to register a main opposition grouping's candidates for next month's parliamentary elections, raising new tensions in the country's crisis-prone politics.

The fiery Yulia Tymoshenko

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

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

But the rejection of candidates from the Bloc Yulia Tymoshenko group would likely raise questions about the election's legitimacy.

The bloc's leader, Yulia Tymoshenko, is highly popular; recent polls have shown the bloc attracting about the same level of support as Yushchenko's Our Ukraine-Our Self-defense.

A Central Elections Commission spokesman, who declined to give his name, confirmed the rejection, but did not give details, saying he was not authorized to speak to the news media.

Tymoshenko, in a statement, called the move illegal, saying the candidates were refused registration because they had failed to provide their full addresses.

She said the bloc's registration was stalled by commission members loyal to Yanukovych.

"These marionettes have just fulfilled Yanukovych's direct order," Tymoshenko said.

Tymoshenko said she would contest the decision in courts and appeal to the European Union and other international institutions.

Yanukovych's supporters rejected Tymoshenko's allegations and accused her of deliberately creating a scandal around her political force to boost its popularity.

"Who is interested in a scandal around documents filled out the wrong way? ... Who is building its ratings on scandals? I think the answer is obvious," said Olena Lukash, a senior member of Yanukovych's Party of Regions.

Ukraine's politics have been beset by an array of troubles since the 2004 Orange Revolution — the massive protests that broke out after fraud-plagued presidential elections in which Yanukovych was declared to have won the most votes.

Yushchenko won a court-ordered repeat vote.

However, Yushchenko's presidency quickly became plagued by internal squabbling and he dismissed Tymoshenko as prime minister in the fall of 2005.

Yanukovych's party won the largest share of votes in 2006 parliamentary elections and he became prime minister after the Socialists, who had been allied with Yushchenko, broke ranks to form a majority coalition with Party of Regions.

Yuschenko accused Yanukovych this year of trying to usurp power and ordered parliament dissolved. Yanukovych rejected the call, but eventually agreed to early elections after tensions escalated to the point that some observers feared an armed confrontation was imminent.

Source: International Herald Tribune