- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 3, 2002

KIEV Ukraine's parliamentary elections over the weekend marked a watershed for the development of democracy in the former Soviet republic, according to some election observers.
"We have begun to awaken, and that is conscious," said Galina Zaremba, who was a Ukrainian election observer at a polling station in central Kiev, where residents waited for more than two hours to vote. "People came because they wanted their thoughts to be known. It is good that the nation has begun to think. We are not all 'communal' now."
With nearly all of the country's polling stations reporting returns yesterday, six political blocs emerged as the victors in Sunday's poll. Victor Yushchenko's reform-minded Our Ukraine took 23.57 percent of the popular vote, the Communists came in a narrow second with 20.01 percent, while the pro-presidential For United Ukraine placed third with 12.09 percent.
Three other groups broke the 4 percent barrier of the popular vote, which is necessary to win seats in the legislature, surprising many analysts.
"The next parliament will be a system of very complex compromises," said Danylo Yanevsky, director of the nongovernmental Institute of Political Modeling in Kiev.
None will have a clear majority, Mr. Yanevsky said. That will make the remaining three groups critical to passing legislation and reaching compromises.
Under Ukraine's election law, 225 of the legislature's 450 seats are filled by party lists. The number of seats a bloc gets in parliament depends on how well it does in the popular vote. The other 225 seats come from so-called single-mandate districts; voters pick the candidates they want to represent them. Although many single-mandate candidates claimed to be independents, they were aligned de facto with a political bloc, giving the bloc more seats.
Although people voted with passion and purpose, some analysts warned that the system remains far too confusing for ordinary voters.
An election that allows this kind of maneuvering needs to be changed, Mikhailo Pohrebinsky, a respected political analyst, said on one Ukrainian television station Tuesday.
He said he expected that one of the first items on the new parliament's agenda would be to review the election law.
"We need to start political parties," Mr. Pohrebinsky said, noting that only two parties have established ideologies the Communists and the Social Democrats. "The rest are amorphous," he said.
Mr. Yushchenko, a former prime minister, for instance, wove together a delicate web of parties comprising Ukrainian nationalists and pro-market reformers.
While they have been able to find a common language so far, their interests could diverge. Mr. Yushchenko is less radical than some of the people in his bloc; he sooner seeks compromise than confrontation.
What is certain, however, is that the new parliament will have to deal with widespread anger directed at the United States.
Washington was perceived by many candidates as interfering in Ukraine's internal affairs after Congress passed a resolution calling for free, fair and transparent elections.


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