Friday

5th Mar 2021

Pro-Western bloc wins Ukraine elections

  • Turnout was 70 percent in the west, but as low as 30 percent in government-controlled areas in the east (Photo: EUobserver)

Ukraine exit polls show a strong win by pro-Western parties, a snub to the far-right, and a surprisingly good result for elements of the former regime.

President Petro Poroshenko’s eponymous Poroshenko bloc (23%), serving prime minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk’s People's Front (21%), and Self-help (13%), a party formed by Andrey Sadoviy, the mayor of Lviv in western Ukraine, are expected to form a ruling coalition, with Yatsenyuk likely to stay on as PM.

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Two nationalist parties - the Radical Party and Svoboda - look set to pass the parliamentary threshold (5%) with around 6 percent each.

But Right Sector - which led the militant wing of February’s revolution and which is the main bogeyman of Russian propaganda on “neo-Nazis” in Kiev - got less than 3 percent.

The former ruling party of ousted president Viktor Yanukovych - the Party of Regions - did not run.

The pro-Russia Communist Party also failed to make it into parliament for the first time since Ukraine gained independence.

But the Opposition bloc, led by Yanukovych’s former energy minister, Yuriy Boyko, got around 7 percent.

Yulia Tymoshenko, a towering figure in international relations in the run-up to the February revolution, got just 6 percent.

The exit polls were broadly confirmed by preliminary results published by the Central Election Commission (CEC) on Monday.

The CEC also reported turnout of 52 percent nationwide, rising to over 70 percent in the west, but falling to some 30 percent in government-controlled regions in the east.

Meanwhile, three parts of the country - some 4.8 million people out of Ukraine’s 46 million population - did not vote: Crimea (annexed by Russia), and parts of Donetsk and Luhansk in east Ukraine (which are held by pro-Russia rebels).

The situation means 27 seats in Ukraine's 450 seat parliament will be left symbolically vacant.

Rebel chiefs, speaking to Russian media, denounced the elections as a “farce”. Boyko also accused authorities of corruption, calling the vote the “dirtiest” ever in Ukraine.

But for his part, Poroshenko on Sunday thanked people for backing what he called a “democratic, reformist, pro-Ukrainian, and pro-European majority”.

He noted that they punished “demagogues and populists” and gave “a death sentence” to the Communist “fifth political column”.

The OSCE, a European multilateral body, will give its preliminary verdict on the conduct of the vote later on Monday.

But endorsements from the EU and US have already begun trickling in.

The US ambassador to the OSCE, Daniel Baer, noted that he visited 10 polling stations. “The election officials, observers and citizens we encountered were eager to discuss election preparations and enthusiastic about their ability to vote, once again, for change”, he said.

Lithuania’s foreign minister Linas Linkevicius tweeted: “Seems that [the] European choice [is] winning in Ukraine. Farewell to the past!”.

Jacek Saryusz-Wolski, a Polish MEP, congratulated Ukrainians on the “victory of their European course” on behalf of the EPP, the centre-right group in the European Parliament.

Rebel vote looms

Rebel chiefs in Donetsk and Luhansk are now planning to hold their own vote on 2 November in an effort to cement claims to independence.

The project runs counter to a Russia-Ukraine peace accord in Minsk, which said Ukrainian authorities would organise a regional vote in the conflict zone in December.

German chancellor Angela Merkel last week blamed Russian leader Vladimir Putin for failing to stop the separatists from creating a “frozen conflict”.

But Putin, in remarks in the so-called Valdai Club symposium last Friday, defended the rebels’ plan.

“The Minsk agreements do stipulate that elections in the south-east should be held in co-ordination with Ukrainian legislation, not under Ukrainian law, but in co-ordination with it”, he said.

He added that the December vote was set “without consulting with the south-east … [so] people in the south-east say: ‘See, they cheated us again, and it will always be this way’.”

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