UKRAINE’S RULING PARTY has claimed victory in weekend elections as early results showed it withstanding the challenge by allies of ex-premier Yulia Tymoshenko whose jailing last year sparked global concern.
Prime Minister Mykola Azarov said the ruling Regions Party would win the majority of seats in the new parliament after Sunday’s vote that the West saw as a huge test for Ukraine’s democracy amid the furore caused by the imprisonment of Tymoshenko.
While the vote for Tymoshenko’s opposition alliance held up, the party of boxing champion Vitali Klitschko fell short of its high expectations while the political baptism of footballer Andriy Shevchenko was set to end in disaster.
President Viktor Yanukovych’s Regions Party has 35.03 per cent of the vote against 21.98 per cent for Tymoshenko’s opposition party, the central election commission said with half the precincts reporting in the proportional system that will determine half the seats in the new parliament.
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, an early analysis of the results showed.
“We are expecting that the Regions Party will take the majority in the new parliament,” Azarov said. The head of its parliamentary faction, Olexander Efremov, said he expected it would control 230 seats in the 450-seat Verkhovna Rada.
“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 legislative elections,” he added.
The final turnout was robust at 58 per cent, the central election commission said.
The Communists were polling strongly in third place with 14.89 per cent. Klitschko’s new UDAR (Punch) party was on 12.88 per cent, something of a disappointment given some pre-election opinion polls had placed it in second.
The ultra-nationalist Svoboda (Freedom) party was also due to break the five per cent threshold needed to make parliament and was polling 8.34 per cent, the partial results released by the election commission said.
Interpreting the make-up of the new parliament is difficult as dozens of independents are set to win single mandate seats and their affiliation will not become clear until parliament actually meets for its first session.
The Tymoshenko, Klitschko and Svoboda parties are expected to form an alliance in parliament but Klitschko conceded that “in all probability the majority will belong to the ruling party.”