Oct 27, 2014 11:54 AM
Pro-Europe parties dominate Ukraine vote
The Associated Press
KIEV, Ukraine (AP) With anti-Russian sentiment spiking in Ukraine, parliamentary election results Monday showed a crushing victory for pro-European parties.
Russia said it would recognize the Ukrainian vote, which dealt a strong blow to Russian efforts to keep Ukraine in its political orbit, and warned that Ukraine faces dire economic problems that eclipse any question of the direction of its allegiances.
With 60 percent of the vote counted Monday, the three main pro-Western parties alone stood to win 54 percent of the vote combined. Negotiations on forming a broad reformist coalition were expected to begin immediately.
Meanwhile, Poland said it will move thousands of troops toward its eastern borders in a historic realignment of a military structure built in the Cold War, its defense minister told The Associated Press in an interview Monday. Russia had no immediate reaction to Poland's moves.
Sunday's vote in Ukraine overhauled a parliament once dominated by loyalists of former President Viktor Yanukovych, who sparked months of protests and eventually his ouster in February with his decision to deepen ties with Russia instead of the European Union.
Anti-Russian sentiment has grown as Ukraine battles separatists in the east whom many believe are supported by Moscow. Still, the Opposition Bloc, which pundits believe drew its support from Yanukovych's once-ruling Party of Regions, put in a strong showing and captured about 10 percent of the vote.
Of the pro-European parties, Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk's Popular Front had 21.6 percent of the vote while President Petro Poroshenko's party had 21.4 percent. A new pro-European party based in western Ukraine was running third with 11 percent.
The Fatherland party of former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who has argued strongly for NATO membership and is likely to join a pro-Europe coalition, had 5.7 percent of the vote.
International observers hailed Sunday's election as a step forward in building democratic institutions. Kent Harstedt, who oversaw the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe observer mission, said the election offered voters a real choice and showed "respect for fundamental freedoms."
The OSCE said, however, that there were isolated security incidents on election day and instances of intimidation and destruction of campaign property ahead of the vote.
Russia had criticized Ukraine's election campaign before the vote but Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Monday that Moscow would recognize its outcome.
"It is very important that in Ukraine, at last, there will be a government that is occupied not with ... the pulling of Ukraine either to the West or to the East, but with the real problems that are facing the country," Lavrov told Russia's Life News.
Poroshenko has laid out an ambitious agenda envisioning significant changes to Ukraine's police, justice and tax systems, defense sector and health care all to be completed by 2020. Among the tougher decisions ahead will be allowing the cost of utilities in the cash-strapped country to float in line with market demands.
While around 36 million people were registered to vote Sunday, no voting was held on the Crimean Peninsula, which was annexed by Russia in March, or in separatist-held parts of Ukraine's easternmost regions of Donetsk and Luhansk.
Anton Karpinsky, a 36-year-old doctor in Kiev, said he was delighted that Ukraine will now have a pro-Western government.
"Our revolution and fight was not in vain," Karpinsky said. "The election shows that Ukraine sees its future in Europe and NATO, and we will get there step by step."
Stepan Burko, a 67-year-old retiree whose $140 monthly pension barely covers his food bills, said difficult times remain ahead despite Poroshenko's optimism.
"The only certain winners in Ukraine are slogans. But it is much more difficult to overcome poverty and war," Burko said. "If it weren't for my children's help, I would go hungry. These are the problems the new authorities should tackle."
Some hoped that a strong government could negotiate an end to the war.
"The main thing is to put a stop to the war. We are so tired of killings, shelling and weapons," said Tatyana Rublevskaya, a 48-year-old shopkeeper.
In Warsaw, Polish Defense Minister Tomasz Siemoniak said the country's troops are needed in the east because of the conflict in neighboring Ukraine.
"The geopolitical situation has changed. We have the biggest crisis of security since the Cold War and we must draw conclusions from that," Siemoniak said.
He said at least three military bases in the east will see their populations increase from a current 30 percent of capacity to almost 90 percent by 2017.
Associated Press writers Monika Scislowska in Warsaw, Poland, and Lynn Berry in Moscow contributed to this report.