Ukraine ruling party set to get grip on new parliament: analysts

Reuters News
Posted: Nov 11, 2012 11:47 AM
Ukraine ruling party set to get grip on new parliament: analysts

By Pavel Polityuk

KIEV (Reuters) - Ukraine's ruling party has emerged from the fractious October 28 election well short of a simple majority, but support from communists and independents should ensure its grip on the new parliament, analysts said.

Opposition parties, who made a strong showing in an election criticized as flawed by international observers, said they would continue to regard voting in some electoral districts where they had lost as crooked.

Final figures from election authorities on Sunday showed that President Viktor Yanukovich's Regions remained the biggest party in the 450-seat parliament, gaining an overall 185 seats.

Despite international criticism and street protests by the opposition, the election's outcome is likely to be used by Yanukovich as a springboard from which to launch a second bid for presidential office in 2015.

The pro-business Regions, which is financed by wealthy industrialists, says it alone can provide stability in the former Soviet republic, a major exporter of steel and grain.

Its opponents say the jailing of his chief rival, ex-prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, was designed to weaken political resistance during the election.

The opposition, which includes Tymoshenko's Batkivshchyna (Fatherland) party, far-right nationalists and a liberal party headed by boxing champion Vitaly Klitschko, say his rule will extend corruption and cronyism, and relations with the West will deteriorate further.

Political tension has been sharpened by the impending resumption of a second trial of Tymoshenko who is currently serving a seven-year sentence for abuse of office. The new trial, which is due to resume in the city of Kharkiv on November 13, alleges tax evasion and embezzlement.

With the communists - who normally vote for the Regions - on 32 and independents, many of whom are funded by Regions' backers, on 43 they seemed certain of a parliamentary majority of more than 225 when the assembly re-convenes next month.

But the opposition has been reshaped. Batkivshchyna took 101 seats, Klitschko's UDAR (Punch) party got 40 and Svoboda (Freedom), a Ukrainian nationalist party, had secured 37. Both UDAR and Svoboda will be newcomers to the new parliament.

"The Regions and the communists will not have any problems putting together a majority in the new parliament because most of the independents will join them," said political analyst Mikhailo Pogrebinsky.

In response to opposition rallies complaining of a crooked vote count, election authorities have announced a re-vote in five individual electoral districts - though this does not suit some in the opposition coalition since it potentially endangers some of their candidates who won in the initial round.

Tymoshenko's party on Sunday defiantly announced it did not in any case accept the election commission's figures in respect of two constituencies which had been won by independents.

"We do not regard them as people's deputies but as criminals," a Batkibshchyna statement said. "We will do everything we can to stop these people take the oath and we are convinced that a parliament, formed in this way, will not be legitimate."

Klitschko's UDAR party also kept up criticism of the election, saying in a statement that 1.5 percent of its votes had not been taking into account.

The three main opposition parties have yet to formulate a coordinated approach over whether, and under what circumstances, they will take their places in the new parliament.

(Writing By Richard Balmforth; Editing by Stephen Powell)