Exit polls in Ukraine’s parliamentary elections suggested that Sunday’s vote would cement the country’s new political course, seven months after the revolution that toppled former president Viktor Yanukovych. Forces loyal to President Petro Poroshenko and the government more broadly looked set to dominate the parliament, but there were also votes for more radical parties and those made up of former activists from the Maidan revolution. A new party mainly made up of Yanukovych’s defunct Party of the Regions polled in single figures, according to exit surveys. The vote came with parts of eastern Ukraine remaining under the de facto control of pro-Russia separatists, and with an increasingly radical mood taking hold in much of the rest of the country, impatient for reforms from a new government led by Poroshenko, a billionaire chocolate magnate.
October in Kiev has brought a gorgeous Indian summer. The reprieve from autumn’s slow creep towards winter gives the city a feeling of hope as it prepares for parliamentary elections on 26 October. Ubiquitous political advertisements for the 29 parties running appear to indicate that change is coming. However, a deeper look at the socio-political environment in Kiev suggests that this picture of progress may be a façade. For most Ukrainians, the optimistic political advertisements (which were almost completely absent during the presidential election in May) contrast sharply with their own experiences. The war in Donbass and the worsening economic and social situation are likely to bring more people to parliament with no appetite for dialogue. Rather, many will want to fight — literally — for what they believe is right. Petro Poroshenko’s bloc “party of peace” is the darling of pre-election polls. Ukraine’s president has designed the bloc, which has been campaigning in the name of unity, to include civil activists, soldiers fighting in Donbass, oligarchs’ proxies, traditional regional power brokers and former Party of Regions lawmakers.
Ukraine’s prime minister has launched what promises to be a bitter election campaign that could divide pro-Western parties and complicate their efforts to fight pro-Russian rebels in the country’s east. Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk, a key interlocutor of the West during months of turmoil, announced on Thursday he would quit, saying parliament was betraying Ukraine’s army and people by blocking reforms supported by Western backers. His move, following the exit of two parties from the ruling coalition, amounted to the start of a campaign for seats in a legislature still packed with former allies of pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovich, ousted by protests in February. “History will not forgive us,” Yatseniuk told parliament on Thursday, in what analysts said was the first campaign speech for the party led by Yulia Tymoshenko, a rival of President Petro Poroshenko, who was elected to replace Yanukovich in May. Pro-Western political forces in Ukraine have been bitterly divided almost continuously since the country won independence with the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991.
It is risky to see hopeful trends in the Ukrainian crisis. But a degree of calm seems to have settled over the rebellious southeast, which may bode well for the presidential election scheduled for Sunday. There are many things Moscow and its minions in Ukraine can still do to derail the election, of course, but President Vladimir Putin of Russia has refrained from publicly endorsing the “people’s republics” proclaimed by secessionists. His spokesman said on Monday that he had ordered Russian troops to pull back from the Ukrainian border, though NATO has not seen any change yet. It is crucial for the vote to be accepted by all sides so Moscow can stop referring to the interim administration as the “illegitimate regime in Kiev,” and the elected president can begin to repair the enormous economic and social damage suffered by Ukraine in recent months. But the election itself will not solve Ukraine’s problems unless a new president can also address the deep corruption and cronyism that have been a hallmark of Ukrainian government since independence in 1991. The front-runner in the presidential race is Petro Poroshenko, a 48-year-old tycoon known as the Chocolate King for his candy empire.
The European Parliament elections and the vote for a new president in Ukraine dominate the agenda this week. Voters in The Netherlands and the UK begin the EP election process on Thursday (22 May), followed by the Czech Republic and Ireland on Friday, four more countries (Italy, Malta, Slovakia, and Lithuania) on Saturday and the rest on Sunday. The results are due at 11pm Brussels time on Sunday. The latest poll, by TNS, indicates the centre-right EPP will slightly increase its lead over the centre-left S&D and that the Liberal group will shrink. Polls also indicate that the number of populist, anti-EU MEPs of various stripes will grow, with the eurosceptic Ukip and the far-right National Front set to become the leading EU parties in the UK and France, respectively. Also on Sunday, Ukrainians will vote for their new president under the eyes of more than 1,000 OSCE monitors, the largest ever election mission by the Vienna-based multilateral body.
After a winter of lightning-fast changes – a president ousted and a peninsula apparently lost to Russia — Ukrainians are beginning to look ahead to elections on May 25 to replace Viktor Yanukovych. The opposition leader who seemed to have the inside track a few weeks ago, ex-world champion heavyweight Vitali Klitschko, has taken himself out of the running. Klitschko will stand for mayor of Kiev and throw his support behind billionaire Petro Poroshenko, who made his fortune in the candy business. Although not widely known in the West, Poroshenko has relatively broad appeal in this deeply divided country. He was a prominent backer of both the Orange Revolution in 2004 and the recent pro-European demonstrations in Kiev’s Independence Square.
After a leading contender dropped out of Ukraine’s presidential race Saturday, the hopes of many Ukrainians and their Western supporters are now on a man known as the Willy Wonka of Ukraine, the billionaire owner of a chocolate-candy company. Petro Olekseyevich Poroshenko, 48, was the highest-profile Ukrainian industrialist to support the protests that ousted President Viktor Yanukovych last month, and he has for several weeks led in polls for the May 25 presidential election. Known as a centrist who had previously worked for both pro-Western and pro-Russian governments, he became a strong advocate of integration with Europe after Russia banned imports of his chocolate. On Saturday, the candidate who had been running second in polls, the former heavyweight boxing champion Vitali Klitschko, withdrew from the race, throwing his support behind Poroshenko and solidifying his lead.
Ukraine’s interim leadership pledged to put the country back on course for EU integration now that Moscow-backed president Viktor Yanukovich has been ousted and new elections are called for 25 May, the same day as EU citizens will vote in the European elections. Meanwhile the United States warned Russia against sending in military forces. As rival neighbours east and west of the former Soviet republic said a power vacuum in Kyiv must not lead to the country breaking apart, acting President Oleksandr Turchinov said late on Sunday (23 February) that Ukraine’s new leaders wanted relations with Russia on a “new, equal and good-neighbourly footing that recognises and takes into account Ukraine’s European choice”. EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton will travel to Ukraine today (24 February), where she is expected to discuss measures to shore up the ailing economy. Russia said late on Sunday that it had recalled its ambassador to Ukraine for consultations on the “deteriorating situation” in Kyiv.
Ukraine’s opposition demanded a recount or a fresh vote in a dozen hotly contested constituencies on Monday, stepping up their campaign against a parliamentary election last month they say was rigged by President Viktor Yanukovich’s ruling party. Hundreds of people gathered outside the Central Electoral Commission headquarters in the capital Kiev to protest against fraud in the October 28 vote, defying warnings by police that the protest was illegal and might be broken up by force.
Ukrainian President Victor Yanukovich’s party was on course on Monday to secure a parliamentary majority but international monitors said flaws in the way the election was conducted meant the country had taken a “step backwards”. Exit polls and first results from Sunday’s vote showed Yanukovich’s Party of the Regions would, with help from long-time allies, win more than half the seats in the 450-member assembly after boosting public sector wages and welfare handouts to win over disillusioned voters in its traditional power bases. They will face, though, a revitalized opposition boosted by resurgent nationalists and a liberal party led by boxing champion Vitaly Klitschko.
Ukraine is preparing for its parliamentary elections on October 28th. The main question is as old as Ukrainian history: will it be a transparent and fare election by western standards or will the ruling party use questionable methods to win their seats in Parliament? The main players in this election are the government’s Party of Regions and the United Opposition party, Fatherland (Batkivshchyna). In addition to those, there is UDAR (Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reforms), lead by famous Ukrainian boxer, Vitali Klitschko, the Communist Party and about thirty other smaller groups. With Yulia Tymoshenko, former prime minister and the leader of the opposition, in prison, her party is still remarkably strong. Tymoshenko is serving her seven-year term over a gas deal with Russia and abuse of the office – charges that she denies.
The ruling Party of Regions and its allies look set to win Ukraine’s parliamentary election on October 28th. They may even gain a constitutional majority with control of two-thirds of the parliament. This will likely happen despite the fact that most Ukrainians regularly tell pollsters their country is heading “in the wrong direction” and less than a quarter of them plan to vote for the Party of Regions. Perhaps the most important reason for this is that Ukraine has reverted to the mixed proportional and first-past-the-post system last used in 2002. Back then, it allowed Leonid Kuchma, an unpopular president, to secure a working majority in parliament thanks to a divided opposition and post-election defections to his camp. The same conditions are in place now for Viktor Yanukovych (pictured above), the current president. His candidates can come out on top in first-past-the-post constituencies where three or more opposition politicians are competing. On October 14th the two main anti-Yanukovych forces agreed to withdraw some of their candidates in some districts in order to limit this phenomenon, but they have stopped far short of a genuine alliance. It is testament to the current parliamentary opposition’s ineffectiveness that it allowed this electoral reform to pass last year, giving the ruling party a chance to retain power in an election that could be classed as free and fair (given that an elected parliament had agreed to its rules).
Ukraine’s parliamentary election next month risks falling short of democratic standards and further damaging the former Soviet republic’s ties with the West, a senior U.S. official warned on Saturday. Just a day after Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich said the October 28 poll would help Ukraine seal a long-sought association agreement with the European Union, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Melia said it could receive a “failed” grade. “Ukraine could find itself increasingly distant in all directions rather than integrated in all directions,” Melia told a conference in the Black Sea resort of Yalta attended by senior Ukrainian officials including Prime Minister Mykola Azarov. “The election is another important moment for national choices, national decision-making and I think that unless or until some significant steps are taken to improve things like the election environment you are not going to be able to move as closely as many of you want to Europe and the United States.”
Ukraine: Vitali Klitschko, the boxer who would be president, faces his toughest fight yet | guardian.co.uk
In one of the world’s most combustible parliaments, MPs had better watch out. A putative new member is coming who can do more than look after himself. They call him Dr Ironfist and for good reason: Vitali Klitschko is a heavyweight boxing champion, the first ever to hold a PhD – and not a man to pick a fight with. After two decades in the ring, the 41-year-old is on his way to perhaps the most bruising challenge of his life – taking on President Viktor Yanukovych and the dominant elite of Ukraine’s corrupt political system. With elections next month and some expecting Klitschko to hang up his gloves after a fight against Manuel Charr this weekend, the boxer appears poised for that most enigmatic of transformations: sports star to politician. “We are trying to make politics more open,” Klitschko said in an interview with the Guardian. “It became a Ukrainian tradition to make decisions behind closed doors [but] … we are trying to apply European standards in politics.”
Former Ukrainian PM Yulia Tymoshenko who is currently serving a jail sentence for abuse of office has addressed European politicians with a call to recognize the Ukrainian parliamentary poll as illegitimate before it even takes place. The address was read in the European Parliament by Tymoshenko’s daughter Yevgenia, who also held meetings with leaders of the European People’s Party – a coalition of European center-right parties who have long been allies with Tymoshenko’s Batkivshchyna (Fatherland) party. “The main message is to make a statement right now that these elections are illegitimate. After the elections are over it will be too late,” Yevgenia Tymoshenko said. “The dictatorship in Ukraine has practically been built. The elections will help to strengthen it,” she added. These words echoed last month’s statement by Wilfried Martens, president of the European People’s Party, who said that Yulia Tymoshenko’s arrest was a shift by President Viktor Yanukovich’s administration towards “Soviet-style authoritarianism.”
The Conservative Foreign Affairs spokesman in the European Parliament has condemned Ukraine’s decision to ban key opposition politicians from forthcoming elections – and branded the move a sham and a disgrace. Charles Tannock, Conservative MEP for London, said any parliamentary elections in the former Soviet state which did not involve former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko or former interior minister Yuriy Lutsenko, would be a hollow and meaningless exercise. He suggested the European Parliament might now produce its own report exposing the undemocratic elections, independently of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).
Ukraine: European parliamentarians: Elections without Tymoshenko, Lutsenko are disgrace to Ukrainian government
European parliamentarian Charles Tannock believes parliamentary elections in Ukraine not involving opposition leaders Yulia Tymoshenko and former interior minister Yuriy Lutsenko are a disgrace to the Ukrainian administration, Yulia Tymoshenko’s official website has reported. Tannock made the statement commenting on the Ukrainian Central Elections Commission’s refusal to register Tymoshenko and Lutsenko as candidates to the parliament.
A Ukrainian court has upheld a decision to bar two jailed opposition leaders from registering as candidates for upcoming parliamentary elections. The decision Wednesday on former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and former Interior Minister Yuriy Lutsenko cannot be appealed. The United Opposition party had appealed a court decision to refuse to recognize a complaint against election officials who would not register Tymoshenko and Lutsenko for the October 28 elections because of their convictions.
The European Parliament’s centre-right political group has joined Ukrainian opposition forces in condemning the Ukrainian Central Election Committee’s refusal to register imprisoned political leaders Yulia Tymoshenko and Yuri Lutsenko as candidates for the October parliamentary elections. Tymoshenko’s party, Batkivschyna (Fatherland), has appealed to the country’s Supreme Administrative Court over the administrative refusal to register the former prime minister and Lutsenko, the former interior minister, as the party’s parliamentary candidates, the Ukrainian News website reported yesterday (13 August). Tymoshenko and Lutsenko were sentenced last year to seven and four years, respectively, for abuse of power. Tymoshenko led the 2004 Orange Revolution protests that derailed current President Viktor Yanukovich’s first bid for presidency. The former prime minister says she is the victim of a vendetta by Yanukovich.
Ukraine’s Central Election Commission on Wednesday refused to register jailed ex-prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko and former Interior Minister Yuri Lutsenko as candidates in the forthcoming parliamentary polls. The Ukrainian election authority excluded the two from the election list of the opposition Batkyvshchina pary on the grounds that Ukrainian laws prohibit people who are serving a prison term from running in national elections.
As the world looks to London, a more important contest has kicked off in Kyiv with star quality of its own. Four years ago, under cover of the Beijing Games, Russia and Georgia engaged in a bloody bout of tit-for-tat violence, which damaged both countries’ international reputations and did little to improve the prospects of people in the region. Now, with the Five-Ring Circus under way in the United Kingdom, all seems thankfully quiet on the Eastern front. However, the campaigning for Ukraine’s October parliamentary election, which officially began July 30, shouldn’t be allowed to slip under the radar as the results will have far-reaching impact. The protagonists in this important contest have no intention of being overshadowed by events elsewhere, and many of them are used to strutting their stuff on the international stage, albeit not exclusively in relation to party politics.