Pro-west parties head for victory in Ukraine poll

TWO exit polls last night indicated that Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko’s party will secure a narrow win in the parliamentary elections, but fall substantially short of an outright majority.

A group of soldiers vote at a polling station in Kramatorsk. Picture: AFP
A group of soldiers vote at a polling station in Kramatorsk. Picture: AFP

The vote, which aimed to overhaul a legislature tainted by its association with the ousted former president, Viktor Yanukovych, was expected to usher in a contingent of largely pro-western MPs.

The Rating Group Ukraine exit poll suggested that the Poroshenko Bloc had won 22.2 per cent of the vote and that prime minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk’s Popular Front party had come second with 21.8 per cent. A recently formed pro-European party based in western Ukraine, Samopomich, was third with 14.2 per cent of the vote.

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Another exit poll, organised by three Ukrainian research groups, saw the Poroshenko Bloc with 23 per cent of the vote and Popular Front in second with 21.3 per cent.

The preliminary official results are expected today.

Although they lead rival parties, Mr Poroshenko and Mr Yatsenyuk share pro-western sentiments and have campaigned on reform agendas aimed at pulling Ukraine back from the brink of economic ruin.

The two are likely to form a coalition together with other pro-European parties.

While around 36 million people were registered to vote, no voting was held on the Crimean Peninsula, which was annexed by Russia in March, or in parts of Ukraine’s easternmost regions, where unrest is still rumbling and armed pro-Russia separatists have taken a firm hold.

The election marks a closing chapter in the legacy of Mr Yanukovych, who was ousted in February after months of street protests following his decision to put ties with the European Union on hold in favour of deepening trade relations with Russia. The protests broadened into a mass uprising fuelled by rage at Ukraine’s pervasive corruption and culminated in snipers shooting dead dozens of demonstrators.

The outgoing parliament was previously dominated by Mr Yanukovych’s Party of Regions, which had its main base of support in the heavily Russian-speaking industrial east.

Some supporters of the Party of Regions were viewed as likely to back the Opposition Bloc party, which both exit polls showed with almost 8 per cent of the vote, above the 5 per cent threshold needed to enter parliament.

Non-government watchdog Opora estimated that 2.8 million people in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions in the east – more than half the potential 5m voters there – had been unable to cast their ballot.

Tamara Shupa, a 62-year-old retiree in Kiev, the capital, said she hoped incoming politicians would put an end to the war.

“We are very tired of the war,” Ms Shupa said at a polling station. “To bring about change, we need peace.”