Ballots declared valid after turnout crosses 50 per cent threshold

Voting in Ukraine's parliamentary election is entering its final hours. The country's Central Election Commission has confirmed that 50 per cent of the electorate have already cast their votes. President Viktor Yushchenko has promised there will be no rev

More than 20 parties are contesting the country's third poll in four years, but the three main parties are likely to win most of the 450 seats being contested.

Parties prepare for political 'horse-trading'

Promising to accept the results

Ukrainians voting abroad

No clear winner is expected and talks to form a coalition after the election seem almost certain.

The Eastern half of the country largely supports the pro-Russia Party of Regions led by Prime Minister Yanukovich.
 
While, the West consists mainly of “orange” voters, backing President Yuschenko's pro-Europe Our Ukraine party, and the Yulia Timoshenko Bloc.
 
Polls opened at 7am and close at 10pm local time.  Political analysts believe voter turnout in Ukraine will be as high as 67 per cent. At 7pm more than 50 per cent of electorate had turned out to vote, that's a higher turnout than at the same time during the last election.

Prime Minister Yanukovich speaking to   
             journalists after voting in central Kiev
Prime Minister Yanukovich speaking to journalists after voting in central Kiev


Exit polls are expected to be made public as soon as polling stations close, with the first official results available from Monday morning.

President Yushchenko, Prime Minister Yanukovich and Yulia Timoshenko have already cast their votes .

A delegation of supervisors from the EU are monitoring the election in several cities across the country. Adrian Severin from the European Parliament says they're paying particular attention to mobile voting, the accuracy of voting lists, and whether people coming from abroad are allowed to take part in the election. 

“The most important thing for us to know is whether any inconsistencies of this kind could affect the results of the election. I do hope that this will not be the case. We’ve already seen that the system is vulnerable and far from perfect. However, we hope that the final result will not be distorted,” said Mr Severin.

Although voting is reported to be going fairly smoothly throughout Ukraine, a number of election violations came to light once polls opened.  In the city of Kharkov, close to the border with Russia, the names of some voters were not printed correctly on the register.  It's believed the problem has been fixed and voting is going ahead there normally.

Parties prepare for political 'horse-trading'

As it is quite obvious that no party is going to gain a majority of seats in the parliament,  speculation about probable coalitions is gaining momentum. The Editor-in-Chief of the Ukrainian Profile magazine, Oleg Voloshin, believes there are two possible alternatives regarding political alliances.

“It’s evident now that there will be no grand coalition between the Party of Regions and Our Ukraine party. That leaves two possible variants. The first one is a coalition between the Yulia Timoshenko bloc and Our Ukraine party. The second one is a coalition between the Party of Regions and the Communist party. The probability of this or that coalition strongly depends on the turnout in the eastern and western parts of Ukraine,” Oleg Voloshin said.

However, Moscow correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor, Fred Weir, thinks it will take some time for the political parties in Ukraine to form any coalitions.

“There may well be a lengthy period of negotiations and maneuvering, as we saw after the previous parliamentary elections, in attempts to cable together some kind of workable coalition,” he said.

Promising to accept the results

Meanwhile, President Yushchenko has said that he is going to recognise the results of the vote.  He also announced there'd be no more snap elections in Ukraine.

Yushchenko is campaigning openly for the reunion of his orange party and Yulia Timoshenko’s Bloc.
 
“I am convinced that the choice to be made today is the choice which will bring to Ukraine stability and social and economic development and prosperity. I am sure that the date is being put aside and society is becoming more tolerant while political relations are also entering the sphere of tolerance. These are the main results of the political situation in Ukraine”, he said.

Prime Minister's supporters are on high alert
Prime Minister's supporters are on high alert


Prime Minister Yanukovich’s team responded by accusing the President of bias. The Prime Minister's Party of Regions is likely to win the largest number of votes in this poll.  It may even be able to form a coalition without the president’s team.

“Ukrainian people are sick and tired of revolution. The country needs stability. Those politicians who are seeking to destabilise the situation through their radical actions have no future,” Mr Yanukovich said. 

Both camps have dismissed allegations of fraud. But supporters of the Party of Regions have already set up tents in front of the Central Election Commission in case they think anything goes wrong.

Ukrainians voting abroad

Ukrainians have the right to vote from abroad. 118 stations have been set up in 88 countries around the world to facilitate the process.

The Ukrainian embassy in Moscow is among those that have opened their doors to voters.

By midday more than 200 people had cast their ballots, but officials said they expected greater activity later in the day. 

Ukraine's ambassador to Russia, Oleg Demin, says there are no obstacles for Ukrainians wishing to vote outside the country.

“There are no barriers for voting. Information from Vladivostok, St. Petersburg, Tyumen, Rostov and from Moscow polling stations show no incidents. The Embassy and consulates across the country have done their best to let all Ukrainian citizens who are in Russia to execute their civil duty and right to choose between political parties,” he said.

However, some voters who came to the polling station in Moscow went away without being able to cast their vote.

“I called the Ukrainian embassy beforehand to ask whether I needed to apply. They said, no, you can come on election day.  But when I turned up they wouldn't let me vote. They told me I didn't have the right because I didn't apply two weeks before,” said a Ukrainian citizen.