KIEV, Ukraine – Ukraine's Central Election Commission late Monday declared Western-leaning reformer Viktor Yushchenko (search) the winner of the presidential election over Kremlin-favored Viktor Yanukovych (search).
The commission announced that the final official tally of the Dec. 26 voting — which was a rerun of the Nov. 21 election that was annulled amid allegations of massive fraud — showed Yushchenko with 51.99 percent of the votes and Yanukovych with 44.2 percent.
Yanukovych, who stepped down as prime minister last week, had been declared the winner of the Nov. 21 election, and he has vowed to use all possible legal avenues to overturn the revote. The Supreme Court earlier Monday rejected eight complaints by Yanukovych's campaign.
The elections commission's statement Monday must be accepted by the High Court and published in two official gazettes before Yushchenko can be inaugurated. That could leave Yanukovych's camp a window for filing more legal actions.
Earlier Monday, Yanukovych's campaign manager Taras Chornovyl said a massive legal action consisting of some 500 volumes was being prepared to prove widespread fraud in last month's revote.
But the elections commission's announcement and the High Court rejection of previous Yanukovych appeals appeared to give him little hope of a last-minute turnaround, which had worked for Yushchenko.
After hundreds of thousands of protesters poured into downtown Kiev to denounce the Nov. 21 vote, Yushchenko filed appeals with the Supreme Court. Although the elections commission had declared Yanukovych the winner, the court prohibited official publication of the results pending resolution of the appeal and it eventually declared the vote invalid.
International elections observers had harshly criticized the Nov. 21 election as a step backward for the ex-Soviet republic, noting widespread incidents of multiple voting, and complaining of intense bias against Yushchenko by state-run and -influenced TV stations.
The protesters built and enormous tent camp on Kiev's main avenue and have remained there since, although their numbers have fallen in recent weeks as Yushchenko's prospects appeared to improve. However, fearing an 11th-hour change, some have vowed to remain until Yushchenko is inaugurated.