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Ukraine election: President Yanukovych party claims win

Published: October 29, 2012 | 8:05 am
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The party of Ukraine’s President Viktor Yanukovych has claimed victory in the country’s parliamentary election.

Officials from the Party of Regions said the poll showed Ukrainians had confidence in their leader.
However, initial counts varied widely from exit polls and the complicated electoral system means a final result is some way off.
Thousands of observers are in Ukraine for the vote, which Mr Yanukovych hopes will boost his democratic credentials.
Western governments have criticised Mr Yanukovych over the jailing of opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko.
Officials said the election had passed off smoothly, with a turnout of some 45%, about average for Ukraine.

Ukraine ‘united’
Ukrainians were voting for 450 MPs, half of whom are selected from party lists, and the other half from single-seat constituencies.

Exit polls based only on party-list voting showed the Party of Regions winning 28%, followed by Ms Tymoshenko’s United Opposition Fatherland bloc on 24.7%.

However, a count of 14.6% of ballots gave the Party of Regions 38%, compared to just 20% for the United Opposition Fatherland.

Party of Regions MP Borys Kolesnikov, a deputy prime minister, said his party was likely to dominate the single-seat constituencies.

“There are 225 single-seat constituencies and we see our candidates winning two-thirds of them,” he said.

Prime Minister Mykola Azarov told a news conference it was clear that the Party of the Regions had won.

“These elections signal confidence in the president’s policies,” he said.

Exit polls suggested a strong showing for other parties – the far-right Freedom party (12.5%), the Communists (12.5%) and the anti-corruption Udar party (15.4%) of boxing champion Vitali Klitschko.

But the early 14.6% counting figures were different, putting the Communists on 15.6%, Freedom on 6.7% and Udar on 12%.

Neither the exit polls nor the early counting may fully reflect the final official result, which is expected on Monday.

During voting, Mr Yanukovych said he had cast his ballot for “stability and economic development”.

“I believe that this election will move Ukraine towards unity,” he said.

After casting his vote in the capital, Kiev, Mr Klitschko said he was “going to parliament to fight”.

He listed his “five key punches” as corruption, indifference of the authorities, lack of local governance, inequality and poverty.

Ms Tymoshenko voted from her jail cell, where she is serving a seven-year sentence for abuse of power.

The BBC’s David Stern in Kiev says the election was one of the most closely watched in Ukraine’s history, with 3,500 accredited foreign observers, including more than 600 from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

Campaigning concerns
Earlier, Western officials expressed concerns over campaigning.

In a New York Times editorial, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton cited “worrying trends” in the interim election report from the OSCE (of which Ukraine is due to take over the rotating chair in January).

These included government resources being used to favour ruling-party candidates, media restrictions, vote-buying and lack of transparency on the electoral commissions.

The jailing of Ms Tymoshenko has severely strained relations with the West.

Opposition supporters say Ms Tymoshenko was prosecuted and imprisoned last year in order to prevent her running in the election.

The EU indefinitely postponed its association agreement, including a free trade pact, after the jailing.

Mr Yanukovych, who has been president for three years and faces re-election in 2015, has rejected calls to free his rival.

He says she was sentenced by an independent court.

He insists European integration is one of his government’s main goals and will hope his pro-business party can hold on to the parliamentary majority it enjoys.

Ukraine, with a population of 46 million, has been hit by the global economic downturn and unpopular pension and tax policies.

The Party of Regions recently attempted to assuage public opinion by boosting public-sector salaries and pensions.

But the reforms exacerbated a $2bn (£1.25bn) budget deficit and called into question the likelihood of securing IMF lending, correspondents say.

Ukrainian authorities hope a good assessment by 3,500 international election observers will reopen the door to the association agreement.

BBC

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