Scandal, intrigue mark Ukraine campaign

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The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development has lowered its growth forecast for Ukraine’s gross domestic product to 1 percent from 2.5 percent, saying that “growth is expected to remain subdued.”

Despite the scandals and the economic decline, some leading European figures are hopeful for Ukraine’s future and its goal of joining the European Union.

“The Tymoshenko case cannot hinder the future of the country and deeper ties between Europe and Ukraine,” said former Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi.

“You cannot stop history, and free and fair elections must presage this change.”

Mevlut Cavusoglu of Turkey, a former president of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, said the election should be judged on its own, not in the context of recent events.

“The Tymoshenko case overshadows everything, but it should not,” said Mr. Cavusoglu, who, like Mr. Prodi, spoke in Berlin at a recent symposium on the Ukrainian election.

“The whole country should not be excluded from Europe merely because of Tymoshenko.”

Inside Ukraine, many of candidates also say they will take a wait-and-see attitude toward the vote, though with less optimism than the European leaders.

Volodymyr Kukhar, an independent from Ukraine’s far western Ternopil region, said he hopes the election will lay the groundwork for a freer democracy.

“I don’t think these election will reveal a transparent and democratic system in Ukraine. There are real problems here in the basic institutions of democracy,” Mr. Kukhar said in a telephone interview.

“But I hope we are laying seeds for a better system in the future and that we will slowly be able to climb out of our current context.

“Making a change in Ukraine is a slow process, and we must be patient.”

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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