Ukraine Court Hears Tymoshenko Poll Challenge

KIEV, Ukraine -- A top court in Ukraine on Friday started hearing a complaint by Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko alleging that presidential elections she lost to Viktor Yanukovych were marred by widespread fraud.

Addressing the hearing, Yulia Tymoshenko said she would accept any decision as long as it was fair.

Addressing the hearing, Tymoshenko said she would accept any decision as long as it was fair.

"If everything is studied objectively, I will accept the decision (of the court), which is the will of the people, but I cannot accept double standards and I cannot give up."

Addressing reporters just before the hearing started, Tymoshenko, who wants to force Yanukovych into a third round, pledged to fight until the end.

"Today I have not come to defend the presidential elections, I have come to defend Ukraine," she said.

Known for her predilection for beige designer dresses, the glamorous politician wore a funereal black outfit to the court.

"I don't want the future of my state, my people to be built on lies, on deception as happened during the 2010 elections. Today I will fight."

Around 300 of her supporters gathered outside the court to support the defiant prime minister, but their numbers were dwarfed by a much larger pro-Yanukovych crowd.

Earlier this week Tymoshenko filed a complaint with the court demanding the results from the February 7 ballot be invalidated due to what she says were mass falsifications.

The court ruled that final election results be suspended while it hears the case of Tymoshenko.

Yanukovych defeated Tymoshenko by around 3.5 percent or just under 890,000 votes in the election, according to the final official results.

Tymoshenko contends that mass violations, which she says amount to one million votes, put the outcome in doubt.

Ukraine's parliament -- where Yanukovych's Regions Party is the largest faction -- has already set the inauguration for February 25 amid fears of a looming political crisis.

"Nothing threatens the inauguration," Vladyslav Lukyanov, a deputy with Yanukovych's Regions Party, promised reporters before the start of the hearing.

"I've already bought myself a tuxedo for the reception which will happen on the evening of the inauguration."

Lukyanov said that if the court did not procrastinate it could deliver a verdict within the next two days.

Olexander Chernenko, head of the Committee of Voters of Ukraine, a non-governmental organization, told AFP, "They should end the hearing before Sunday, 48 hours from the beginning of the hearing."

Tymoshenko is facing an uphill battle as international observers have already praised the elections as fair and democratic.

Western leaders including US President Barack Obama have also congratulated Yanukovych on his victory.

Yanukovych vowed Friday not to allow the division of Ukraine, while his party accused Tymoshenko of using her influence to pursue personal gains.

"Tymoshenko continues to demonstrate a cynical and unceremonious violation of the constitution and law," the Regions Party said in a statement.

Yanukovych's victory heralded a return to a more pro-Russia orientation for Ukraine after the 2004 Orange Revolution which brought a pro-Western government to power in Kiev.

In 2004 he was initially declared the winner of disputed presidential polls. But following mass street protests against vote-rigging, the courts overturned his victory and ordered a new election which he lost.

Source: AFP