2014-10-26 17:34:00

Polls open in Ukraine

(Vatican Radio) Voters in Ukraine headed to the polls Sunday for their country's first parliamentary elections since the February ouster of pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych. Voters were expected to overhaul a legislature tainted by its association with the ousted leader. But millions were unable to participate in the election, due to ongoing fighting in eastern Ukraine,where current President Petro Poroshenko visited government troops. Dressed in uniform, Poroshenko was seen politely bowing to those standing in line to vote in the city of Kramatorsk near the front line. It was a brief interruption in their ongoing battle against pro-Russian separatists. Troops were among relative few people voting in the east. Activists estimated that more than half of the potential five million voters in war-torn Donetsk and Luhansk regions were unable to cast their ballot.


Elections also didn't take place on the Crimean Peninsula, which was annexed by Russia. Opinion polls suggested that the first parliamentary ballot since the ouster of pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych would install a mainly pro-Western parliament. That would boost Poroshenko’s mandate to end the conflict in eastern Ukraine as well as his efforts to establish closer ties with the West and crackdown on rampant corruption. Analysts warned however that the election outcome would create more tensions with Russia, which still did not resume natural gas deliveries to Ukraine ahead of an expected cold winter.


Yet in the capital Kiev, not all voters gave up hope. “I think a new political party will bring a lot of changes,” an elderly man said. “You can see that it’s impossible to work with the current parliament.” Whoever wins the elections will be under pressure to quickly resolve the conflict in the east which has seen more than 3,700 deaths and over 800,000 refugees. Voters say Ukraine's new parliament should go beyond rhetoric. “First of all, look at what’s happening in our country,” a young man added. ”It has not been good. I have used my vote and hope that the choice I have made will influence change.”

While Poroshenko's Party Peace block was expected to receive most votes, it would have to form a coalition. Other parties expected to win seats in parliament include Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk's Popular Front and the Fatherland party of ex-prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko. Another contender is firebrand nationalist Oleh Lyashko's Radical Party following lavish campaign spending. Some 2,000 international observers monitored Sunday's ballot, including from Europe's security organization OSCE.

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