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November 23, 2004

Law Professor John Bonine on “Getting Out the Vote” in Ukraine

 
Getting Out the Vote in Ukraine

November 23, 2004
by John Bonine

University of Oregon law professor John Bonine and his wife, visiting professor Svitlana Kravchenko, codirect the Oregon-Lviv University Partnership. Here, Prof. Bonine comments on the recent presidential runoff election between Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych and challenger Viktor Yushchenko in Ukraine, which has been the subject of massive protests and allegations of widespread vote fraud.

“Getting out the vote” has some remarkable twists in Ukraine.  After spending time as a vote protection attorney for our own opposition during our recent election, I also am impressed with the vote protection and protest efforts going on in Ukraine right now.  (Ukraine is a country with the population and size of France and contains the geographical center of Europe.)

Turnout yesterday was reported at 79% nationwide – in part because turnout in pro-government regions was claimed to be 96%.  Not content to vote in one place, voters in pro-government eastern Ukraine traveled from one polling place to another to vote again by absentee ballots, handed to them in stacks of five. 

The runoff round of the Ukraine Presidential election took place three weeks after ours in America.  Exit polls with a sample of 30,000 showed the opposition winning 54% to 43%.  The opposition’s “parallel vote count” similarly claimed 53% to 43%.  However, the Central Election Commission claims 46.7% to 49.4%, with a 3% victory margin for the government’s candidate.  The U.S. Government and observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) have labeled the election unfair and fraudulent.  Some opposition voters were allegedly given pens with vanishing ink for marking their ballots.  Opposition observers were barred from hundreds of voting stations in pro-government regions.

One to two hundred thousand people are now in Independence Square in Kyiv, protesting the official vote count, some bringing tents and planning for a long stay in the cold weather.  Others are traveling by cars, planes, and trains to Kyiv to join the demonstrations.  The Kyiv city council has voted not to recognize the official results, as have various regional councils in western Ukraine including Lviv (with whom we have the Oregon-Lviv University Partnership).  Efforts are underway to persuade the Parliament to reject the Central Election Commission’s results.

Photographs of the “Orange Revolution”: http://5tv.com.ua/newsline/119//2690/

Ukraine’s only independent TV channel:

Ukrainsa Pravda (Ukraine Truth), a news service:
http://www2.pravda.com.ua

Opposition party website:

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