Two pro-European parties in Ukraine running on a platform to enact tough reforms have taken the lead in the Ukrainian parliamentary election.
With more than half the votes counted, Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk’s Popular Front was leading with 21.6% of the vote while President Petro Poroshenko’s party had captured 21.5%.
Mr Poroshenko said after Sunday’s election that he wanted Western-oriented parties to quickly form a broad reformist coalition. The Interfax-Ukraine news agency cited Yuriy Lutsenko, a leading figure in the Poroshenko Bloc, as saying the draft coalition agreement would be published later.
A recently formed pro-European party based in western Ukraine called Samopomich was running third with around 11% of the vote.
Yesterday’s vote overhauls a parliament once dominated by loyalists of former president Viktor Yanukovych, who sparked months of protests that caused his ouster in February with a decision to deepen ties with Russia instead of the European Union.
Anti-Russian sentiment has spiked in Ukraine as the country battles separatists in the east whom many believe are supported by Moscow. The war has left over 3,600 dead.
Nonetheless, the Opposition Bloc, which pundits believe largely drew its support from Mr Yanukovych’s once-ruling Party of Regions, put in a strong showing with around one-tenth of the vote.
While around 36 million people were registered to vote yesterday, no voting was held on the Crimean Peninsula, which was annexed by Russia in March, or in parts of Ukraine’s easternmost regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, where shelling remains a daily constant.
Anton Karpinsky, a 36-year-old doctor in Kiev, said he was delighted that Ukraine will now have a pro-Western government.
“Our revolution and fight was not in vain,” Dr Karpinsky said. “The election shows that Ukrainian sees its future in Europe and Nato, and we will get there step by step.”
Mr Poroshenko has laid out an ambitious agenda envisioning significant changes to Ukraine’s justice system, police, tax system, defence sector and healthcare to be completed by 2020. Among the tougher decisions ahead will be allowing costs of basic utilities in the cash-strapped country to float in line with market demands.
Stepan Burko, a 67-year-old retiree whose monthly pension barely covers food bills, said difficult times remain ahead, despite Mr Poroshenko’s efforts to radiate optimism.
“The only certain winners in Ukraine are slogans. But it is much more difficult to overcome poverty and war,” Mr Burko said. “If it weren’t for my children’s help, I would go hungry. These are the problems the new authorities should tackle.”
War-weariness is increasingly being felt in Ukraine and there is hope a strong government may be able to negotiate an end to the conflict.
“The main thing is to put a stop to the war. We are so tired of killings, shelling and weapons,” said Tatyana Rublevskaya, a 48-year-old shopkeeper.