Ukrainian presidential candidate Yulia Tymoshenko on Wednesday drove up tension ahead of Sunday's election, accusing Viktor Yanukovich, her rival, of preparing to rig the poll through last-minute changes to election rules.
Yanukovich's Regions Party earlier pushed through parliament an amendment to electoral rules that will scrap the requirement for a quorum of representatives of both contenders to approve the count at individual polling stations.
"Parliament has passed changes to the law ... which wreck an honest presidential election, make it false, dishonest, unregulated," Tymoshenko, the prime minister, said in a televised statement.
"This has been done because Yanukovich does not believe in his victory and he wants to get a result only through falsification," she said.
She urged President Viktor Yushchenko not to sign the electoral rule changes into law and said she had invited ambassadors from the Group of Eight countries to an urgent meeting later on Wednesday.
Tymoshenko and Yanukovich are set for a runoff vote for president on Sunday after a bitter campaign in which she has openly insulted him and he has accused her of systematic lying.
Russia and Europe
The outcome of the election will be crucial for the ex-Soviet republic's future relations with its former Soviet master, Russia, and its place in Europe.
It should also produce a stable government capable of resuming talks with the International Monetary Fund over a suspended $16.4 billion bail-out programme for the struggling economy.
Tymoshenko trailed Yanukovich by 10 percent in the first round of voting on Jan. 17, but most observers say the outcome of Sunday's election is too close to call.
Yanukovich, 59, a former prime minister who was disgraced in 2004 by mass protests called the "Orange Revolution" which denied him the presidency after a rigged election, is strong in the Russian-speaking east and south.
The fiery Tymoshenko, 49, who was one of the main leaders in the "Orange Revolution", has strong support in the Ukrainian-speaking western regions and the centre.
The Regions Party had argued that the quorum could be abused by Tymoshenko's supporters if her representatives failed to turn up at the polling station, thus delaying the approval of the count or making it impossible altogether.
Yanukovich said he expected Yushchenko to sign the amendments into law, Interfax Ukraine reported.
"I am certain President Yushchenko, who has also said many times that he is interested in carrying out honest elections in Ukraine, that he will sign it," Yanukovich told journalists while on the campaign trail in the eastern city of Luhansk.
ReutersLast Mod: 03 Şubat 2010, 21:46