KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — The Supreme Court declared the results of Ukraine’s disputed presidential run-off election invalid and ruled Friday that the run-off should be repeated by Dec. 26, bringing cheers from tens of thousands of opposition supported massed in Kiev’s main square.
The ruling, made after five days of hearings by the court’s 18 justices, was a major victory for opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko, who had rejected the government’s demands that an entirely new election be held.
The opposition had pinned its hopes on the court’s ruling in its bid to overturn the results of the Nov. 21 run-off vote in which Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych was declared the winner. The opposition said the vote was rigged to cheat Yushchenko of victory.
Outgoing President Leonid Kuchma had been pressing for an entirely new election, apparently in hopes of replacing Yanukovych with a stronger candidate.
UPDATE: (Tobias, 18:29 CET) – The Kyiv Post has some more information –
Tens of thousands of opposition protesters who had massed in central Independence Square (Maidan Nezalezhnosti) in anticipation of the decision cheered, waving blue-and-yellow Ukrainian and orange Yushchenko flags and chanting “Yushchenko! Yushchenko!” The crackle of fireworks could be heard in the distance.
In related news, Maidan reports that outgoing President Kuchma vetoed the recently passed law invalidating “absentee ballots” for the re-run. These ballots allowed Ukrainians to vote in other than their home districts, and were, according to numerous reports by international observers, one of the main instruments of electoral fraud in the initial run-off.