Czech observer says voting was fair in re-run of Ukrainian presidential election

Independence Square in Kiev, photo: CTK

Supporters of Viktor Yushchenko have been celebrating his victory in the re-run of Ukraine's presidential election on Sunday. However, his opponent, Viktor Yanukovych, is not giving up without a fight, saying his team will take thousands of complaints about how voting was conducted to court. But how fair was the vote really? Among the international electoral observers in Ukraine were 50 Czechs, including Ondrej Soukup of the charity People in Need. Does he believe the elections were fair this time?

Independence Square in Kiev, photo: CTK
"Yes, especially in comparison with the second round - there was a completely different atmosphere. From what I saw they were pretty fair and there were no major problems. And I spoke to observers from Mr Yanukovych's side and nobody actually complained about any serious violations."

But Viktor Yanukovych's team are now saying constitutional and human rights were violated in the re-run, and are taking some 5,000 complaints to Ukraine's Supreme Court. Does Mr Soukup believe those claims are at all substantiated?

"I was at one polling station when it was closing and seeing all the complaints during the day. And there was a complaint, for example, that the chairman of the election committee ate an orange during the elections. And they thought this was a violation, that it was agitation of Mr Yanukovych's side. So if the rest of the complaints are the same I can say 'ok, maybe there are 5,000 complaints'. But there were no serious problems, from what we saw."

So what is the atmosphere like in Ukraine now, with the opposition refusing to accept defeat? Ondrej Soukup again.

"I was in Independence Square in Kiev yesterday - there was a huge demonstration, the people were celebrating. Of course people are aware that Mr Yanukovych and his team are, let's say, not happy about the results. They are aware of possible complications in the future, but they are definitely sure that the future of Ukraine is under Mr Yushchenko."

There is a Czech community in Ukraine, and their association Ceska Beseda is one of the oldest Czech compatriots organisations in the world. Its leader is Evzen Topinka, and he gave his reaction to the result of Sunday's vote.

"From my point of view the vote turned out well, although I did expect Yushchenko to win by more votes. If his victory is confirmed there will be more democracy and transparency in politics, and we will turn more towards the West. Up to now there has hardly been any press freedom. The country was run by crooks. I think a lot of them will be sent to prison for what they have done and we will gradually see order here."