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Tuesday, December 28, 2004

A much more lonely fight

From the Times:

This time, in a reversal of the Nov. 21 election, it was Mr. Yanukovich who was refusing to accept the outcome. Speaking Monday evening at his headquarters, he asserted that a huge number of Ukrainians had been denied access to the polls, either by restrictive new voting rules or by intimidation by Mr. Yushchenko's supporters. He said he would file a challenge to the Supreme Court, seeking cancellation of the results.

"This is a crying fact: Millions of Ukrainian citizens did not have a chance to vote," he said. "They were thrown out. They were humiliated. There were more than 4,800,000 of such people."

Mr. Yanukovich's claim did not square with the reports of international observers or journalists, and although for a moment Kiev seemed bound for a continued standoff in this protracted race, the prime minister's challenge appeared destined to go forward without independent corroboration or European support.

Furthermore, while Mr. Yanukovich appeared to be following the Yushchenko playbook in protesting the results, there were other unmistakable differences. Mr. Yushchenko's complaints last month were matched not just by Western leaders but by a huge outpouring of support in Ukraine. Parliament also took up his case.

But Mr. Yanukovich was stepping into a much more lonely fight. He mustered few supporters in the capital on Monday, and Parliament ignored him, announcing plans through a spokesman to prepare for Mr. Yushchenko's inauguration.

A few of Prime Minister Yanukovich's supporters did show up on Monday to wave his distinctive blue and white flags near his headquarters. But they numbered only a few dozen, and seemed more worried than inspired.


Mr. Yanukovich had previously said he planned to bring huge numbers of his supporters to Kiev in the event he lost the race, but his supporters on the streets on Monday said they were local people, and they showed little signs of organization or preparation.

On the corner outside the prime minister's headquarters, three young men had only one banner to wave, and they shared a single bottle of beer.

"There were falsifications on the Yushchenko side," said one of them, Doniyel Yashikov, 18, a student at the Interior Ministry's law enforcement academy. "I will never recognize him."

Asked how he would resist, Mr. Yashikov said he would go to rallies. There were no rallies in sight, just cars passing by with their drivers and passengers largely ignoring him. Many of their antennas bore the orange ribbons of the Yushchenko campaign.

As we Democrats can attest, it's no fun losing an election. But when the results are clear and the election is fair, you pack up, go home, and work at becoming an opposition. Not even Putin will help them now.


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