Ukraine opposition weighs options as Regions set to be called winner

By bne IntelliNews October 31, 2012

bne -

The Ukrainian opposition is weighing up its options as the final result of the country's much-criticized October 28 parliamentary vote is set to be announced. With President Viktor Yanukovych's Party of Regions looking set to be declared the winner, accusations by international observers of widespread electoral fraud has opened the way for the opposition to call for a fresh poll.

US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton called the vote "a step back for democracy," in comments made during a visit to Bosnia-Herzegovina. Andreas Gross, head of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe's (PACE) observer mission, suggested that "Ukrainians deserve better than these elections."

However, to reject the vote would inevitably lead to street demonstrations. While the far-right nationalist Svoboda party has threatened just that, others parties making up the fractured opposition look more likely to plump for the long game. Former boxing champion Vitali Klitschko's Udar party looks likely to come third in the official results, but it had refused to join forces with jailed opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko's second-placed party ahead of the vote.

Klitschko has said that he will accept the results and is clearly looking ahead to the presidential vote set for 2015. Should he stick to that strategy, the election results are more than likely to stand unopposed, with a divided opposition having little chance of forcing a rerun.

A smaller win

The Central Elections Commission (CEC) is due to announce the official result late on October 31, by which point close to 100% of the vote should have been counted. Regions is poised to retain a majority in the 450-seat Parliament, together with its ally the Communist Party.

However, Regions looks likely to have had its majority significantly trimmed, which makes accepting the vote tempting for the opposition. If they go down this road, then the notorious Rada - regularly the scene of flying eggs and fists in recent years - is likely to see lively "debate" once more.

That also means it will become less efficient at a time when the Ukrainian economy is in desperate need of strong economic reform to get the wheels of commerce turning again and to stave off a potential devaluation of the hryvna currency. In a sign of those difficulties, the state budget deficit jumped threefold from a year earlier in the first nine months of 2012, as spending rose 15%, the Finance Ministry said on October 31.

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