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1 Oct, 2007 23:22

Ukraine election: back to the future?

With more than 90 per cent of the votes counted, there's more than a touch of deja vu about the results so far from Ukraine's latest parliamentary election.

Five parties have so far crossed the 3% threshold, and will hold seats in the next parliament. As the counting of votes is drawing to a close it seems everything depends on negotiation between the rival parties.

Supporters of the Party of Regions staged a mass rally to shake off the last doubts of victory and their leader believes the party will form the cabinet.

“I am sure that again our party will be forming the government. By all international norms, we have the right to form the coalition and the cabinet,” Viktor Yanukovich said.

He also says he will begin talks to form a coalition government as soon as the final results are announced.

“The count still continues. But all exit polls indicate the Party of Regions is a clear winner. After the official results are announced we intend to start negotiations with other political forces on the possibility of forming a coalition with them,” Mr Yanukovich commented.

But the ‘orange’ team is not so sure they will join the opposition again. Together they may pose a threat to the Party of Regions’ comeback as Yulia Timoshenko is also planning to create a coalition of her own. 

“I plan to approach President Yushchenko and propose forming a coalition and then start forming a new government. I hope this time we will be able to create a normal working alliance in one or two weeks. But the make-up of the coalition is already clear,” she said. 

Have your say

People are tired of the political crisis which always leads to social and political instability. This is why it is so quiet now. The main thing is that the election does not really change the current situation. The inactive parliament dismissed by the President is not coming back into power. Neither coalition gets 300 seats in the parliament which means that the situation we get is the same as the one we had before. According to Ukraine’s constitution, a coalition needs 300 seats to make any major state decisions.

Tatyana Nagornyak, political analyst

Parties have already started accusing each other of falsifications. President Yushchenko ordered a probe into a delay in the vote count.

Moreover, several voting irregularities have already been registered. The authorities say they are looking in particular at cases where voters have allegedly been bribed.

In the city of Dniepropetrovsk in eastern Ukraine, one of the heads of the election committee was allegedly caught with a bunch of blank voting cards.

But the Central Election Committee says there is nothing to worry about.  International observers tend to agree, saying that in general the election has been free and fair. 

The Presidential administration in Kiev says it's concerned about the vote count in eastern Ukraine. While regions in western and central Ukraine have already counted more than 80% of the votes, in eastern Ukraine only about 30% have been tallied. 

Since eastern regions traditionally support the Party of Regions, this means there could be a late surge of support for Yanukovich before the final result is announced.

There is also a possibility that small parties that overcame the 3 per cent barrier will change the whole political landscape. It may be that the biggest surprise of this election will come in a small package.

The final results of the elections are due early on Tuesday.

First response of the parties’ leaders

Election procedures under scrutiny

Parties prepare for political 'horse-trading'

Promising to accept the results

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 Yushchenko's pro-Europe Our Ukraine party, and the Yulia Timoshenko Bloc.
Turnout has been estimated at 63 per cent.

First response of the parties’ leaders

As the first response from the Ukrainian party leaders comes, it appears that the PM, Viktor Yanukovich, considers the preliminary indicators of the vote show the policy of the government has been successful.
“The most important thing is that we've confirmed once again that the government has been pursuing a successful economic and social policy. This is proved by the significant support we've received compared to the 2006 elections. This is a carte blanche for the Party of Regions to form a successful new government,” he stated.
It seems he has a chance of staying on his post.

Yulia Timoshenko expressed her intention to form a coalition with the Orange forces, and she may also be the one to form the Cabinet.

It may be another turbulent trip as more than 50,000 Orange and Blue supporters are reported to be on their way to Kiev – some to celebrate and some to protest.

There is yet a third possibility. Election watchdogs may quash the vote if they detect fraud.

An election observer from Russia says a lot of people simply could not find themselves on electoral lists.

“I saw an old couple who found themselves marked ”dead“ at the polling station. Then there was a woman registered on the list under her maiden name, which she changed a year ago. I heard there were many such cases which is very disturbing,” explained Aleksey Sigutkin, Russian State Duma deputy.

It appears thousands of Ukrainians could not vote simply because of administrative errors.

Election procedures under scrutiny

A delegation of supervisors from the EU has been monitoring the election in several cities across the country. Adrian Severin from the European Parliament says they were paying particular attention to mobile voting, the accuracy of voting lists, and whether people coming from abroad were 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 was reported to be going fairly smoothly throughout Ukraine, a number of election violations came to light once polls opened.

For example, in the city of Kharkov, close to the border with Russia, the names of some voters were not printed correctly on the register.

Meanwhile, in the city of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine some people weren’t on the registration lists at all.

Aleksandr Lukyanchenko, Mayor of Donetsk, was one of them and he said the problem lies in faults in the system.

“First of all, I think it proves the imperfection of electoral laws in our country. Secondly, it speaks of the irresponsibility of the social services. Even after a month they do not know where the Ukrainian citizens are. This is what happened to me. I handed in all the filled-out migration cards on leaving and coming back to the country, but when a month later I went to a polling station, my name was crossed out,” he said.

Many citizens of Donetsk faced the similar problems. At least a thousand complaints were received by a special election hotline.

The number of those who for various reasons were not able to vote in eastern Ukraine is still unclear and it is not known how this might affect the poll results.

Sergey Tkachenko, Head of Donetsk Voters' Committee, said according to their information systematic violations didn’t take place.

“We haven't found any systematic violations during the election, so we hope no incidents will take place and the results of the vote will be recognised as valid,” he noted.

The Ukraine’s Central Election Committee says the irregularities don't represent serious malpractice.

“There are various irregularities but I don't think these irregularities are a gross violation of the main principles of the electoral process. So far, there are no facts to prove the contrary,” stated Andrey Magera from Ukraine’s Central Election Committee. 

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.

Irina Kobrinskaya, a political analyst from the Institute of World Economy and International Relations, told RT that the exit poll suggests there will be an approximate fifty-fifty balance in the next Ukrainian parliament.

“As we see the exit poll results now, it is more or less fifty-fifty. It is more with the so-called 'orange', it is a bit less with Yanukovich if the Communists join him – and they will join him. As I’ve said, much will depend on the position of Vladimir Litvin, who will have a ‘golden share’,” she believes.

Meanwhile one person who will definitely not be part of any new government is Ukraine's Interior Minister, Vasily Tsushko, who has announced his resignation from his post. He issued a statement saying that he has decided to step down after his health worsened on Friday.
Mr Tsushko says that the time needed for treatment would affect his work at the Interior Ministry.

In May he suffered from a heart attack and was later hospitalised in a critical condition.
Vasily Tsushko was chosen as the Minister of Internal Affairs on December 2006 after his predecessor was dismissed by parliament.

Promising to accept the results

President Yushchenko has said that he will 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.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Yanukovich’s team accused 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 smell a rat.

Elehie Skoczylas, a political analyst and one of the monitors of the election in Ukraine, said to Russia Today she hopes the rallies in Ukraine will not continue and Sunday’s election will help to resolve the political crisis.

“I hope this will last a little bit longer than a year because these things are highly expensive. And the real worry is that eventually the public will get tired because the turnout has always been between 60 and 80 per cent. So, you know, democracy will be challenged here if the politicians do not deliver on this election,” she commented.