Ukrainians Vote in Election Seen by West as Democracy Test

Posted October 28th, 2012 at 11:45 am (UTC-5)
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Ukrainians have voted in a parliamentary election seen by the West as a test of democracy in a former Soviet nation maneuvering between relationships with the European Union and Russia.

The ruling Regions Party of President Viktor Yanukovych is hoping to retain its parliamentary majority against a divided pro-Western opposition.

Voters are choosing party lists to fill half of the seats in the 450-member parliament and individual candidates in geographic constituencies to fill the other half.

Observers said the Regions Party is expected to do well in geographic constituencies and predicted it would be able to form a majority in alliance with Communists and some independent lawmakers.

Mr. Yanukovych urged voters to choose stability as he cast his ballot in Kyiv.

“I have voted for the stability and economic development of Ukraine, for our people to live better. This election will promote the unification of Ukraine and the creation of a strong state.”

The Yanukovych government has faced Western criticism for jailing opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko last year for seven years.

The Tymoshenko-allied Fatherland bloc is hoping to win enough seats to promote Ukrainian ties with Europe and limit the president's ability to take perceived authoritarian steps. But, the opposition vote could be split by heavyweight boxing champion Vitaly Klitschko, whose UDAR (Punch) party has attracted support from people disillusioned with political bickering among Tymoshenko's allies.

As Klitschko voted in the capital, he said his reputation is key to his campaign.

“We will do everything possible not to disappoint those who pinned their hopes on us, those who made a choice in our favor. We will do everything possible to make Ukraine a truly European country.”

Klitschko also expressed concern that vote-buying could taint the election. Around 3,500 international observers were deployed across the country to determine whether the vote was free and fair, with a verdict expected on Monday.