Yanukovych declares victory in Ukraine with exit polls showing narrow win

Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych (pictured above) and his pro-Russian Party of Regions (Партія регіонів) appear to have won Sunday’s parliamentary elections in Ukraine, and his prime minister Mykola Azarov has declared victory, although there were indications Sunday of electoral fraud. 

One exit poll out of Kiev early Monday morning showed the following result:

  • The Party of Regions has apparently won 30.1%, which may yield enough seats for a majority in the 450-member Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine’s parliament.  Because the vote is based one-half on proportional representation and one-half on direct districts, it’s believed that the Party of Regions will win a significantly
  • The main opposition party of former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, the center-right ‘All Ukrainian Union — Fatherland’ party (Всеукраїнське об’єднання “Батьківщина, Batkivshchyna) won a robust 22.8%, according to the exit poll, a strong result notwithstanding Tymoshenko’s imprisonment.  Tymoshenko, who narrowly lost the 2010 presidential race to Yanukovych, has been convicted on charges related to the natural gas deal that she negotiated as prime minister in 2009 with Russia — European Union leaders have expressed concern that the conviction seems politically motivated.
  • Heavyweight boxing champion Vitaliy Klychko’s Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reform (Український демократичний альянс за реформи) finished a bit far behind in third place, with 14.8%, according to the exit poll.  The result will be enough to make Klychko a player in Ukrainian politics, but it will be a bit of a disappointment for his supporters who had hoped he could displace Tymoshenko’s party as the chief opposition.
  • The far-right, Ukrainian nationalist  All-Ukrainian Union “Svoboda” (Всеукраїнське об’єднання «Свобода») has apparently won a stronger-than-expected 12.6% — a troubling sign, perhaps, given the ultranationalist turn, but nonetheless a sign that Ukrainians are not incredibly enthusiastic about Yanukovych.
  • Ukraine’s Communist Party (Комуністична партія України), which is the current iteration of the former Soviet Ukrainian communist party and an Yanukovych ally, has apparently won around 11.6%.

Notwithstanding the vote, a loss for Ukraine’s minority could embolden Yanukovych to turn more toward Russia and away from Europe, and to allow a once vibrant movement for reform to wither under corruption and soft authoritarianism.  An absolute majority for Yanukovych’s allies would likely further stall Ukraine’s potential entry into the European Union.

But for now, let’s wait until we see some hard numbers from Kiev.

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