Viktor Yushchenko has claimed victory in Ukraine’s highly contested presidential election. The election seems to have been conducted with little of the rampant fraud and voter intimidation which marked the previous two elections.
Opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko declared victory Monday in Ukraine’s fiercely contested presidential election, telling thousands of supporters they had taken their country to a new political era after a bitterly fought campaign that required an unprecedented three ballots and Supreme Court intervention against fraud.
“We have been independent for 14 years but we were not free,” Yushchenko told the festive crowd in Kiev’s central Independence Square, the center of weeks of protests after the fraudulent and now-annulled Nov. 21 ballot in which Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych had been declared the winner.
“Now we can say this is a thing of the past. Now we are facing an independent and free Ukraine.”
Yushchenko spoke after three exit polls and partial results projected him winning easily in Sunday’s Supreme Court-ordered rematch.
“Now, today, the Ukrainian people have won. I congratulate you,” he said.
As Yushchenko declared victory, about 5,000 supporters gathered on the square applauded and set off fireworks. They waved flags of bright orange - his campaign’s emblematic color - clasped hands and danced.