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KIEV: Ukraine’s ruling party was set yesterday for victory against the allies of jailed ex-premier Yulia Tymoshenko after a legislative election that international observers condemned as a setback for the ex-Soviet state’s nascent democracy.
Prime Minister Mykola Azarov predicted that the Regions Party would win an outright majority in the new parliament following a disappointing performance by another opposition group organised by the world heavyweight boxer Vitaly Klichko.
“We expect these results to hold,” Azarov told reporters. “This means that the Regions Party has scored a resounding victory.”
But observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) issued an unusually strongly-worded statement describing the election process as a step backwards for Ukraine.
“Considering the abuse of power, and the excessive role of money in this election, democratic progress appears to have reversed in Ukraine,” said OSCE special coordinator Walburga Habsburg Douglas.
“One should not have to visit a prison to hear from leading political figures in the country.”
Ukraine’s 2010 presidential election — which saw Viktor Yanukovich defeat Tymoshenko amid disappointment over the fruits of the 2004 Orange Revolution popular uprising — had been hailed by observers as the cleanest ever in the ex-Soviet Union.
“Certain aspects of the pre-election period constituted a step backwards compared with recent national elections,” the OSCE report said. Washington and EU nations — fearful of creeping Ukrainian authoritarianism — had urged Yanukovich’s government to stage a clean vote that could prove its commitment to the values of the European Union that it hopes to join one day.
The criticism by the OSCE is all the more bitter for Ukraine as it is due to take the chairmanship of the body in 2013.
Tymoshenko’s party said it had conducted a parallel count which showed the Regions Party leading her faction by a much narrower margin of just over four percent — an outcome which had also been predicted by exit polls.
Yanukovich’s Regions Party has 34.2 percent of the vote against 22.5 percent for Tymoshenko’s opposition party with 61 percent of the precincts reporting in the proportional system that will determine half the seats in the new chamber.
The ruling party was also on course to win at least 114 seats out of the 225 that are being determined by first-past-the-post single mandate constituencies.
“We are expecting that the Regions Party will take the majority in the new parliament,” Azarov said.
Regions parliamentary faction leader Olexander Efremov said he expected to control 230 seats in the 450-seat Verkhovna Rada house of parliament.
“The Regions Party will have a majority either on its own or with help from MPs from the single mandate constituencies,” said Mykhailo Pogrebynsky of the Kiev institute of political research.
“This is the first time in Ukraine’s history that the ruling party has won the legislative elections,” he added. AFP