It seems to me any attempts to change the rules half way through any competition, even sporting, should be treated with the greatest of suspicion. [See details of recent changes to Ukraine's election laws, signed off and approved with indecent haste by president Yushchenko today, here and here ]
In any competition with two participants, in Ukraine's case Viktor Yanukovych and Yulia Tymoshenko in Sunday's presidential run-off, rules and responsible and mutally agreeable oversight have to be agreed beforehand by both parties, otherwise both parties will, without doubt, cheat.
Today the former long-time chair of the Ukrainian Central Electoral Commission condemned the recently implemented changes, saying they contravene internationally recognised standards.
Oleksandr Chernenko, head of the Committee of Ukrainian Voters, a non-profit organization which has monitored most of Ukraine’s national elections since 1991, called the changes "absurd."
And the European parliament is "worried" about last minute changes in Ukraine's electoral law. "The decision to change the electoral rules in between presidential election rounds now raises serious concerns about the vulnerability of these elections to violations and fraud which could undermine the final result," say some MEP's.
Using in-depth statistical analysis of voting data, some Ukrainian mathematicians are claiming serious manipulation of votes had already taken place in the first round of presidential elections.
They conclude: "An extraordinarily high level of mathematical anomalies in the official protocols of winners of round one in macro-regions A and B [regions where Yanukovych and Tymoshenko had greatest support], leads us tp presuppose that falsification was one of the factors for the electoral gains of Viktor Yanukovych and Yulia Tymoshenko.
Large anomalies together with specific forms of plotted number scatter could indicate that S. Tihipko, V. Yatsenyuk, Viktor Yushchenko, P. Symonenko, V. Lytvyn and A. Hrytsenko, in the A and B macro-regions, were the donors of votes to the two winners of the first round.
Statements by independent observers of the democratic nature of our elections are founded only on external observations in the polling stations and, unfortunately, do not take account what was going on in the shadows.
Remaining outside of politics, having carried out our investigations, we cannot consider morally legitimate the future president of Ukraine, whatever their name."
p.s. For outgoing president Yushchenko to encourage his supporters to vote 'against all' in the presidential election run-off is truly pathetic - unworthy of anyone elected to high office in a democracy. But it is completely in keeping with his five miserable years in office..
Update: President Wilfried Martens of the European People's Party, the largest political group in the European Parliament, is "very concerned about the last minute changes made to the electoral law of Ukraine. They increase opportunities of falsifications during the second round of the Presidential election.
It is surprising that President Yushchenko signed these changes, introduced by the same political party that tried to falsify the Presidential election of 2004..."
Rumours abound that president Yushchenko only agreed to fast-track the signing off of the new election laws because Viktor Yanukovych, if he becomes president, in exchange, promised not to annul the controversial elevation of Stepan Bandera to the the rank of Hero of Ukraine by the current president. Dear oh dear...