President’s party leads as Ukraine elects pro-EU parliament

Despite anti-Russian shift, party of ex-Yanukovich allies is set to win seats

An elderly Ukrainian woman reads her ballot papers during the elections, in the Krenichi village, about 40km from Kiev. Photograph: Tatyana Zenkovich

An elderly Ukrainian woman reads her ballot papers during the elections, in the Krenichi village, about 40km from Kiev. Photograph: Tatyana Zenkovich

 

Ukraine has elected a strongly pro-western new parliament, exit polls showed tonight, with reformists and nationalists set to sweep away many pro-Russian politicians and allies of ousted president Viktor Yanukovich.

President Petro Poroshenko’s eponymous party took 22-24 per cent, according to several exit polls, with the People’s Front of prime minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk on 20-22 per cent and the new Self-Reliance party taking 11-14 per cent. They are expected to form a coalition government.

The polls gave the pro-Russian Opposition Bloc dominated by former allies of Mr Yanukovich 6-11 per cent – more than expected – followed by other pro-EU forces: the populist Radical Party; the ultra-nationalist Freedom group; and the Fatherland party of ex-premier Yulia Tymoshenko.

The election campaign was dominated by the key issues of a traumatic year for Ukraine: last winter’s revolution, Russia’s annexation of Crimea, a Moscow-backed separatist insurgency in eastern provinces and economic collapse.

Before the vote, Mr Poroshenko urged Ukrainians to back parties that would help him push through anti-corruption measures, stabilise the state’s finances with western help and resolve the conflict in Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

“Today we have a new Ukraine,” Mr Poroshenko, a billionaire confectionary tycoon, said after voting in Kiev. “I hope it will be possible to form a strong, pro-European democratic coalition.”

New generation

Mr Yatsenyuk said it was time for Ukraine to “reset” parliament and replace many members of Mr Yanukovich’s Regions Party and communists with a new generation of politicians.

“This is a first tremendous and crucial step to make Ukrainian politics more clear, more transparent, more responsible and more accountable,” he said.

Mr Poroshenko and Mr Yatsenyuk claimed that the old parliament blocked radical reforms since Mr Yanukovich fled in February, and the new chamber will include former activists, journalists and military men who have fought in the east.

Mr Poroshenko also made an unannounced visit by helicopter to Kramatorsk, a town formerly held by rebels about 100km north of their stronghold in Donetsk city.

“Today on territory liberated by Ukrainian servicemen [people] will vote for the European future of our country,” he said, while acknowledging that millions of his compatriots would not be able to cast their ballots.

Elections did not take place in annexed Crimea or rebel-held parts of Donetsk and Luhansk, disenfranchising about five million of Ukraine’s 36.5 million-strong electorate and leaving 27 of parliament’s 450 seats empty.

Separatist leaders and some Russian politicians have said the election would leave Ukraine’s Russian-speakers without proper representation, but voting took place normally in major Russophone cities like Kharkiv, Odessa and Dnipropetrovsk.

“We made a strategy as a family. We support the president so my husband voted for the Petro Poroshenko’s Bloc, but my children and I are voting for Self-Reliance,” said Irina Kharitonenko at a polling station in Dnipropetrovsk.

‘Real democracy’

“We think it’s a party for the future, and really want it to get into parliament. We hope this time our city and our whole country will vote for real democracy at last, for a European Ukraine.”

Reports from around the country suggested there were voting irregularities in certain districts, and international monitors will deliver their report tomorrow.

“This election is incredibly important for the country, and I hope as many people as possible vote, because that will make it harder for anyone to falsify the results,” said Dnipropetrovsk resident Ihor Demchenko.

“I voted for Fatherland, because I want Tymoshenko in parliament. Every politician has a price, but no one will pay Yulia’s price – she wants to be president. So she won’t be bought and will keep a close eye on Poroshenko and the government.”