KIEV, Ukraine – Ukraine's (search) Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that presidential election results can be published before it completes hearing an appeal by the losing candidate, paving the way for the inauguration of Western-leaning reformer Viktor Yushchenko (search).
The court, responding to a motion by Yushchenko's representatives, said the results of his victory over former Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych (search) could be published Wednesday. Publication of the results in the two official government newspapers is a precondition for the inauguration.
Yushchenko won a Dec. 26 runoff election, a rerun of Nov. 21 balloting in which Yanukovych's victory was annulled by the court because of massive fraud.
Tuesday's decision came on the second day of the court's hearing of a complex appeal by Yanukovych.
He contends the December election was flawed because many people had been denied the opportunity to vote due to changes in absentee ballot regulations. Yushchenko supporters say the appeal essentially was an effort to postpone the inauguration as long as possible.
"This means the inauguration will happen," Mykola Katerinchuk, a Yushchenko representative at the court, said after the decision.
Olena Lukash, a lawyer who previously represented Yanukovych, agreed with that interpretation, saying that publication means the Supreme Court and the Central Elections Commission cannot rescind the results.
"It is a politically motivated decision," complained a Yanukovych representative, Taras Chornovyl.
Officials could not immediately be reached to confirm whether an inauguration date would be set. Yushchenko aides said previously they were aiming for the inauguration to be Friday or Saturday.
After the decision, the court continued its session on the Yanukovych appeal, leaving open the possibility it could issue further rulings before the election results see print.
Much of the alleged fraud in the Nov. 21 vote was connected with misuse of absentee voting procedures that allowed people to cast multiple ballots. After that election, the parliament passed reforms eliminating absentee balloting.
But that provision was overturned by the Constitutional Court the day before the December vote, leaving little time for many old and ailing people to make voting arrangements. Yanukovych's appeal focuses on that issue, claiming that large numbers of Ukrainians were denied the vote.
On Monday, the court rejected several maneuvers by the Yanukovych camp, including a call to move the entire proceedings to the Administrative Court, a panel that exists only on paper. A presidential order creating the Administrative Court was issued in 2002, but steps to bring it into existence have not been implemented.
The court also rejected a motion to call the head of the elections commission as a witness, and it turned down a request for one of the judges to be excluded for saying the court had already dealt with major elements of the complaint.
The court has until Friday to decide on the appeal.