A victory for democracy

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The Independent Online

The ruling by Ukraine's supreme court yesterday, invalidating the official results of the presidential election and ordering a repeat vote of the runoff, will favour the pro-Western candidate Viktor Yushchenko, whose orange-garbed supporters have filled the open places of Kiev for the past two weeks. If the supreme court had called for completely new elections, it would have given the government an opportunity to ditch its present lacklustre candidate, Viktor Yanukovych, and put in a more popular figure. The delay entailed would also have drained away some of the momentum Mr Yushchenko's campaign has built up.

The ruling by Ukraine's supreme court yesterday, invalidating the official results of the presidential election and ordering a repeat vote of the runoff, will favour the pro-Western candidate Viktor Yushchenko, whose orange-garbed supporters have filled the open places of Kiev for the past two weeks. If the supreme court had called for completely new elections, it would have given the government an opportunity to ditch its present lacklustre candidate, Viktor Yanukovych, and put in a more popular figure. The delay entailed would also have drained away some of the momentum Mr Yushchenko's campaign has built up.

But that is all academic now. The court's ruling must be respected by all parties involved, including the Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has made his preference for Mr Yanukovych clear. And this poll must be free of the fraud and interference that made such a mockery of the last vote.

The behaviour of the majority of Ukraine's 48 million citizens, since it became clear there was foul play in the election, has been commendable. It has been the sort of reaction that will have given heart to those who believe that Ukraine's destiny lies within the European Union. At every stage the leaders of the opposition have pressed for redress through the constitutional route, rather than advocating violent revolution. The noisy, but patient, demonstrations by opposition supporters in the snows of Kiev seem to have paid off.

A peaceful future for Ukraine is in the interests both of its European neighbours in the west, and Russia in the east. President Putin, no doubt, realises this deep down. He would probably work with Mr Yushchenko if necessary. But the most significant aspect of yesterday's decision is not what it means for politicians in Europe, the Kremlin or Washington. The real significance lies in what it means for the people of Ukraine. They have a right to expect free and fair elections. They were denied this when they last voted. This time, their democratic will must be heard.

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