Ukrainian president's impeachment on table as exit polls predict opposition victory?
Following the most expensive election campaign in the history of post-Soviet Ukraine – costing over $2 billion – polling stations have closed across the country.
Preliminary figures from the Central Election Commission put the turnout at around 45 per cent. Over 36 million registered voters were expected to cast their ballots in the parliamentary elections.
As the votes are still being counted, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich's ruling Party of Regions has already claimed victory."Of course there are some to whom it is not evident – they wanted very much for us to lose, but we have won," Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov said following the exit poll reports.
Overall, 87 parties are participating in the elections, though only five are believed to have a solid chance of passing the five per cent barrier to win seats in the country's 450-seat Rada.
Those major parties consist of:
- the ruling Party of Regions (exit polls: 28-30 percent of the vote)
- the Motherland Party of former PM Yulia Timoshenko, who is currently in prison (exit polls: 24-25 percent)
- the newly formed Udar Party of former boxing champion Vitaly Klitschko (exit polls: 13-15 percent);
- the Communist Party (exit polls: 11-12 percent)
- the ultra-nationalist Freedom Party (exit polls: 11-12 percent).
The Front of Changes Party also hopes to pass the five per cent barrier with the support of voters in Western Ukraine.
Exit polls predict results on proportional seats only. The ruling party may still get the upper hand in the Rada if it takes enough seats on a majority voting basis.
But given the current trend, the opposition might get enough mandates to impeach incumbent President Viktor Yanukovich. Opposition leaders called it a possibility if they can assemble a majority coalition under revamped election rules.
Recent law changes have dramatically remodeled the country's voting system: for the first time since 2002, seats in Ukrainian parliamentary elections will be won on both a majority and a proportional basis. Now numerous independent candidates have a chance at winning the majority parliamentary seats. The independent deputies would then have to decide which alliances to join, and what kinds of coalitions to form.
The elections' strongest dark horse candidate is retired boxing heavyweight champion Vitaly Klitschko's Udar ('Strike') Party. Many Ukrainians believe Klitschko could be the deciding factor in the formation of an opposition coalition in parliament.
Klitschko has already vowed his party would not form a coalition with the ruling Party of Regions or the Communist Party. However, he has not yet expressed interest in joining with the opposition either.
Intrigue and speculation surround the potential makeup of the new parliament, and whether a new bloc could have enough seats to pass a vote to oust Yanukovich, dramatically changing the political landscape and power structure of post-Soviet Ukraine.
And like Russia's presidential election in spring 2012, all of Ukraine’s 32,192 polling stations are equipped with web cameras to deter voter fraud and allow the elections to be viewed online. This extensive system reportedly added $123 million to the country's budget.
The Central Election Commission, which has 15 days to process the results, says the polling day wrapped up without any major incidents. Ukrainians rather turned up in panda costumes to get cheers from onlookers.