Ukraine geared up on Friday for an election which many commentators expect to cement President Viktor Yanukovich’s rule, despite his jailed rival Yulia Tymoshenko calling on voters to stop an imminent “dictatorship”. Yanukovich’s Party of the Regions and a union of opposition forces backing Tymoshenko were scheduled to stage their final public rallies later on Friday in the capital Kiev ahead of Sunday’s poll for a new parliament.
The election takes place with the government unpopular because of tax and pensions policies and failure to stamp out corruption, and the former Soviet republic looking isolated after rows with the United States and the European Union over Tymoshenko, and with Russia over gas.
The export-oriented economy is vulnerable to external shocks such as falling demand for steel. The International Monetary Fund, whose loans could provide a financial cushion, froze lending in 2011 when Kiev balked at painful reform. There is also the question of what judgment international observers will hand down after monitoring the election.