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As Ukraine braces for parliamentary elections to be held on Sunday, all eyes are on President Yanukovych and his jailed rival and former premier Yulia Tymoshenko, who is serving seven years in prison for abuse of power. Through her daughter Yevgenia Tymoshenko, the Ukrainian leader told citizens to throw out from power what she called Yanukovych’s mafia. In a message read out by Yevgenia from her incarcerated mother, the darling of the Orange Revolution told her countrymen not to cast a single vote for Yanukovych’s party.
The run-up to the parliamentary elections in the former Soviet republic has been an interesting one. Yanukovych’s ruling Regions Party has been pitted against a loose coalition led by a boxing star -- Vitali Klitschko of the UDAR (punch) party.
Months ahead of the elections, Tymoshenko, often referred to as the ‘gas princess’, has been in the spotlight over allegations of misbehaviour and harassment in jail levelled by her. As the European Union and the United States fretted over her incarceration—calling it disproportionate and politically motivated — Yanukovych’s government kept ignoring all demands of her release, often scoffing at the allegations and decrying Tymoshenko’s behaviour. At one point of time, the former Prime Minister showed injuries on her body in photographs taken in jail by her lawyer. The marks, she said, were the result of an assault by prison guards on her body.
The sufferings of Tymoshenko put in perspective the state of politics in Ukraine, which under Yanukovych has been leaning heavily towards Russia. The case of Russian opposition activist Leonid Razvozzhayev places the bilateral bonhomie between Kiev and Moscow in perspective. The activist was picked up in the streets of the Ukrainian capital by what Kiev calls the ‘secret services’ and transferred to Moscow on the sly for opposing Russian strongman Vladimir Putin. The West raised a hue and cry and the US Embassy in Moscow expressed concern, but another voice of dissent against an oppressive regime, it seems, has been stifled. In the Ukrainian elections on Sunday, the policies of Yanukovych will go to the test. How Ukrainians stamp the ballot at the weekend will determine his future and that of the former Soviet Republic. There has been growing concern in the West about the state of democracy in Ukraine and if the Regions Party comes to power in parliament, Yanukovych could consolidate his grip on power all the more and lay the pitch for another presidential term in 2015.
The boxing star stares from billboards and election graffiti in Ukraine and the blond braid of Tymoshenko is a marquee of opposition election campaign in the nation of 46 million that may look forward to change or be satisfied with a Russia-leaning dispensation.
The West will hope the opposition can throw out the ruling party from parliament on Sunday. With more than a boxing crown at stake, the boxing heavyweight of the opposition has quite a lengthy bout ahead of him.