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International observers critical of bias in Ukraine vote
Question of the Day
KIEV (AP) — Ukraine‘s parliamentary election was marked by an uneven playing field and biased media coverage that reversed many of the democratic gains the country had made earlier, international observers said Monday.
With Ukraine‘s top opposition leader, Yulia Tymoshenko, in jail, President Viktor Yanukovych’s Party of Regions was poised to retain its control of parliament after Sunday’s vote, according to exit polls and preliminary results.
Observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe criticized Ukraine for rolling back on democratic freedoms in the vote.
“Considering the abuse of power and the excessive role of money in this election, democratic progress appears to have reversed in Ukraine,” said Walburga Habsburg Douglas, the special coordinator who led the OSCE election observation mission.
With votes counted at more than 50 percent of polling stations Monday, the Russia-friendly Party of Regions was ahead with 35 percent in the proportional share of the vote, while Mrs. Tymoshenko’s pro-Western party came in second with 22 percent. The Communists, Mr. Yanukovych’s traditional allies, trailed with 15 percent.
Another pro-Western party called Udar (Punch), led by boxing champion Vitali Klitschko, garnered 13 percent, and the far-right Svoboda (Freedom) party had 8 percent of the vote.
The West was paying close attention to the vote in the strategic ex-Soviet state of 45 million people, which lies between Russia and the European Union and serves as a key transit nation for Russian energy supplies to many EU countries. An unfair election could lead to a further freeze in Kiev’s ties with the West and push it closer to Moscow.
The Party of Regions was also looked to win more than half of the 225 total seats allocated in individual races, according to early results, meaning the president’s team was likely to get a majority of votes in the 450-member parliament.
“This will enable us to form a majority and quickly start implementing the reforms that we started,” Deputy Prime Minister Serhiy Tigipko told The Associated Press.
Mr. Yanukovych's party strongly benefited from an electoral change it pushed through last year. Under the new law, the strictly proportional electoral system has been changed into a mixed one, in which half of parliament’s seats are elected based on party lists and the other half in individual races.
By John McAfee
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