Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych remained defiant in the face of apparent defeat yesterday, pressing a legal effort to overturn results showing he lost Ukraine's recent presidential...
KIEV, Ukraine — Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych remained defiant in the face of apparent defeat yesterday, pressing a legal effort to overturn results showing he lost Ukraine’s recent presidential election and rejecting opposition demands that he leave office in line with an early December parliamentary vote of no confidence.
Yanukovych yielded some ground, however, by saying he would remain on vacation as a candidate rather than attempt to resume his prime-ministerial duties.
Opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko, the unofficial winner of Sunday’s balloting with 52 percent of the vote to Yanukovych’s 44 percent, had called on his supporters to blockade the main government building to keep out the prime minister after he said he would lead a Cabinet meeting there yesterday.
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Members of Yushchenko’s camp have said they expect him to be inaugurated in mid-January. Yushchenko has sought to have an interim government run the country until then.
Thousands of Yushchenko backers had encircled the Cabinet building yesterday morning, allowing employees to pass but declaring their intent to keep Yanukovych out.
“If a person doesn’t understand he has to leave, someone has to show him,” said Onysya Dubchak, 45.
“I’m here because I don’t want my country to be on sale during these final days,” said student Dima Borshchuk, 18, expressing the fear of many Yushchenko supporters that the government might attempt to transfer state assets to cronies before Yushchenko takes power.
It was unclear whether Cabinet ministers would have been allowed into the building. They met elsewhere, but Yanukovych did not join them.
Yesterday evening, Yanukovych said he was challenging the vote results before the Central Election Commission and the Supreme Court. The court, citing fraud, invalidated a Nov. 21 presidential runoff that Yanukovych narrowly won by official count. Yanukovych has called that ruling illegal.
“I want to prove that law, justice and conscience are on our side,” Yanukovych said. “The truth of history is with us. The main thing for us today is to protect our choice, Ukraine’s choice, in the Central Election Commission and the Supreme Court using all legal means.”
The Central Election Commission, however, has already turned down some of Yanukovych’s appeals. Its head, Yaroslav Davydovych, indicated that the panel was unlikely to rule in favor of Yanukovych in the rest.
“These legal challenges are an attempt to draw the commission out of its impartial stand and into politics. And that is impossible,” Davydovych said.
Yanukovych also repeated his belief that parliament’s decision in early December removing him from his post had failed to meet legal requirements.
“I disagreed with the parliament’s decision, because procedure was violated and the law of Ukraine was violated,” he said. “Now when they say that I have to resign, I say, ‘Continue your illegal actions.’ I will not resign, on principle. I know why they insist on me leaving now: because they are afraid, back then and now.”
Yanukovych declined to say why he had not attended the Cabinet meeting. “It’s up to you to draw the conclusions,” he told reporters. “I’m not obliged to report to you about where I was or was not at any given moment.”
Instead of stepping down from the prime minister’s post after the parliamentary vote, Yanukovych took vacation to campaign. Yanukovych backed away yesterday from his assertion Tuesday that he would resume work.
“I’m now a candidate,” he said. “I took a vacation according to this status in the law. I’ll be in this status until the procedure is over.”
Yushchenko said yesterday that his bloc in parliament had agreed before the election campaign to back Yulia Tymoshenko, the firebrand leader of an allied bloc, for prime minister.
Tymoshenko played a key role in the demonstrations against the Nov. 21 vote results. She is also an economist and former deputy prime minister.
The prime minister, however, must be approved by a parliamentary majority. Tymoshenko’s bloc holds only 20 seats, while Yushchenko’s holds about 100. Whoever is to become prime minister would need additional support in the 450-seat legislature.