Ukraine’s ruling party took the largest share of votes in Sunday’s parliamentary elections, according to exit polls, leading all opposition in a contest seen as a test for democracy in the former Soviet republic.
President Viktor Yanukovich’s Party of Regions took 28.1% of the vote in a field of five parties expected to hold seats in parliament, according to Ukraine’s National Exit Poll. The United Opposition coalition, organized by jailed former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and her allies, followed with 24.7%.
Two parties that coordinated with United Opposition had strong showings as well, however. Running third, with 15.1%, was the Udar (“Punch”) party of heavyweight boxing champ Vitali Klitchko. And the Svoboda (“Freedom”) party was fourth with 12.3%, the poll found.
“The results of exit polls show clearly that people of Ukraine are for the opposition, not for the government,” United Opposition leader Arseniy Yatsenyuk told reporters after polls closed Sunday night.
Ukraine’s Communists were running in fifth place with 11.8%, according to the exit poll.
Ukraine has become increasingly isolated under Yanukovich, with Western observers accusing his ruling party of corruption, political persecution and a drift towards authoritarianism. Those concerns are embodied in the treatment of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who is serving a seven-year sentence for abuse of power after what the United States and European Union have both called a politically motivated show trial.FULL STORY