Ruling Party Leads in Ukraine Parliament Vote

Posted October 29th, 2012 at 4:50 am (UTC-5)
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Ukraine's ruling party is on course to maintain a parliamentary majority after Sunday's elections.

The election commission said Monday, with about a third of the votes counted, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych's ruling Party of the Regions had won more than 36 percent of the votes. The Communist Party of Ukraine, Mr. Yanukovych's parliamentary ally, is in third place with about 15 percent of the votes.

Victory for the ruling party will likely cement the leadership of Mr. Yanukovych. He is midway through a five-year presidency, marked by an accumulation of presidential powers and antagonism with the West over the imprisonment of his rival, opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko. Her pro-Western Fatherland Party received about 20 percent of the votes.

Two other pro-Western parties that are new on the national scene had strong showings, combining for about 19 percent of the vote so far.

UDAR, or Punch – the party of heavyweight champion boxer Vitaly Klitschko – appeared to draw about 12 percent of the party list vote. And the nationalist party Svoboda, or Freedom, appeared to draw about 7 percent of the vote.

The elections for the 450-seat Verkhovna Rada chamber of parliament were a huge test for Ukraine's fragile democracy, already overshadowed by the imprisonment of Tymoshenko, who has spent more than a year in prison for abuse of power while in office. She is serving a 7-year sentence.

The early election results indicate the ruling party will likely win a narrow majority of the 225 allotted seats. Voters cast ballots to select party lists to fill half of the seats in the unicameral parliament; the other 225 seats are filled by individual races in geographic constituencies.

The election is seen by the West as a test of democracy in a former Soviet nation, and a signal of Ukraine's future course in managing its relationships with both Russia and the European Union.