Ukrainians overwhelming voted in several pro-Western political parties yesterday in a landmark parliamentary election, another nudge in the former Soviet nation’s drift away from Russia.
Two exit polls released as voting closed indicated that president Petro Poroshenko’s party will secure a narrow win in the election, falling substantially short of an outright majority.
Prime minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk’s Popular Front followed closely.
Although they lead rival parties, Poroshenko and Yatsenyuk share pro-Western positions and have campaigned on reform agendas aimed at pulling Ukraine back from the brink of economic ruin.
The parties are expected to join forces with similarly reform-oriented groups to form a coalition.
Talking to supporters at his party headquarters, Poroshenko said coalition talks will start today and will last no longer than 10 days.
Almost 3m people were unable to vote in eastern regions still gripped with unrest as government troops continue to wage almost daily battle against pro-Russian separatists.
The vote will substantially overhaul a legislature once dominated by loyalists of ousted former president Viktor Yanukovych. “We are seeing a triumph of pro- European forces and a collapse among pro-Russian parties,” said Mikhailo Mischenko, an analyst with the Razumkov Centre think tank. “Ukrainian people see their future in Europe, and this is something that all Ukrainians politicians will have to account for.”
The Rating Group Ukraine exit poll said the Poroshenko Bloc won 22.2% of the votes and the Popular Front came second at 21.8%. Another exit poll, organised by three research groups, saw the Poroshenko Bloc with 23% of the vote and Popular Front in second place at 21.3%. A recently formed pro-European party based in western Ukraine, Samopomich, was seen in third with around 14%.
In an address published on the president’s website, Poroshenko said that the authorities had received an unprecedented show of support from the Ukrainian people.
“A constitutional majority — more than three-fourths of voter taking part in the election — have powerfully and irreversibly supported a European course for Ukraine,” he said. “Any delay in reform will spell a certain death. So I expect the quick formation of a new coalition.”
Other groups that look likely to have entered parliament include firebrand populist Oleh Lyashko’s Radical Party, the nationalist Svoboda party, and the Fatherland Party of former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko. Former boxing champion Vitali Klitschko, who headed the Poroshenko Bloc party list, called on pro-European parties to forge a common front.
“We have shown from experience that we can unite,” Klitschko said.
While around 36m people were registered to vote, no voting was held on the Crimean Peninsula, which was annexed by Russia in March, or in parts of Donetsk and Luhansk, where shelling remains a daily constant.
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