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.”
Analysts expect Yanukovich’s Party of the Regions and its allies to retain a majority in parliament, even though the government has taken a hit since his election in February 2010 because of unpopular tax and pension reforms and little progress in improving the business climate. EU officials on Friday expressed a similar dim view of Ukraine’s democratic progress under Yanukovich, saying the case of jailed opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko remained a stumbling block to good relations
Yanukovich’s key opponent, Tymoshenko, a former prime minister, was sentenced to seven years in prison last October on abuse-of-office charges and cannot stand in the election, although her party Batkivshchyna (Fatherland) is running. Brussels and Washington have condemned Tymoshenko’s trial as an example of selective justice and urged her release but Yanukovich has refused to intervene.
Full Article: Ukraine risks failing election test, U.S. warns | Reuters.