Ukrainian opposition parties on Friday accused President Viktor Yanukovich’s Party of the Regions of “stealing” several parliament seats from them as the vote count from Sunday’s election neared its end.
While the Regions were set to retain majority together with their traditional communist allies and some independents, votes had yet to be counted fully in a dozen constituencies and opposition complained about sharp vote swings in some cases.
However, no party has called for large-scale public protests – which derailed Yanukovich’s first bid for presidency in 2004.
“We will do everything to defend the results of the election. If manipulations (with vote counts) continue we will do everything to make sure this election is ruled void,” Vitaly Klitschko, the leader of opposition liberal party UDAR (Punch), told reporters.
Half of 450 parliament members are elected by voting for political parties while the other half are picked in individual constituencies. This means that one percentage point translates into at least two seats for a party.
In some individual districts, prolonged vote counting triggered accusations of rigging and led to scuffles.
“Most of violations are currently happening in majority (individual) constituencies where there is a real war,” Klitschko told a news conference in Kiev.
Riot police used tear gas at a district election commission in the town of Pervomaisk at night in early hours on Friday, local media reported, where opposition says initial vote results had been reviewed in favour of a Regions candidate.
“There was (an incident) when tear gas was used and special ‘Berkut’ forces were called in in the town of Pervomaisk in Nikolayev region. And UDAR (Punch) party wants to tell the President of Ukraine who is the guarantor of the constitution – it is not ‘Berkut’ who defines election results,” Klitschko said referring to the incident in Pervomaisk.
The interior ministry said in a statement police had been called in to help bailiffs retrieve vote counts submitted by individual polling stations in line with a court ruling.
A candidate from Batkivshchyna, the party of Yanukovich’s jailed opponent Yulia Tymoshenko, told local newspaper Ukrainska Pravda he suspected one of his ribs was broken in a brief fight at another district electoral commission.
Tymoshenko, who is being treated for back trouble in a state-run hospital, has put her lieutenants at Batkivshchyna in an awkward position by launching a hunger strike in protest against what she called massive vote-rigging.
But, according to partial results of the party vote based on 99.65 percent of ballots, Batkivshchyna had secured 25.52 of the vote, a figure that was in line with exit polls and pre-election surveys.
And while they criticised the election over issues such as Tymoshenko’s imprisonment and biased media coverage, monitors from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe were largely positive about the actual voting in their preliminary report this week.
The Regions have denied all allegations of vote-rigging.
Arseny Yatsenyuk, who leads the United Opposition bloc which includes Batkivshchyna, urged the central election commission on Friday to investigate claims of fraud, Batkivshchyna said, but he also stopped short of calling for street protests.
According to partial results as of Friday, the Regions were set to win 187 seats with their communist allies getting 37 and independents, most of whom are also likely to support the Regions, securing 43 seats.
In the opposition camp, Batkivshchyna’s bloc stood at 104 seats, Klitschko’s UDAR at 40 and far-right Svoboda at 37.
The central election commission has until November 17 to announce official election results.