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.
But a team from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which sent more than 600 observers to monitor the election, criticized the way it had been conducted.
“The elections were characterized by the lack of a level playing field caused primarily by the abuse of administrative resources, lack of transparency of campaign and party financing and lack of balanced media coverage,” the OSCE mission said in a statement.
“Certain aspects of the pre-election period constituted a step backwards compared with recent national elections,” it said, a reference to Yanukovich’s election in February 2010 which was judged fair by the West.
It said the inability of jailed opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko to run as a candidate had also “negatively affected” the election process.