Ukraine’s parliamentary elections held over the weekend that saw President Victor Yanukovich’s party reelected were slammed by international monitors, who said that the “democratic progress appears to have reversed in Ukraine” following the vote.
Exit polls show that the ruling Party of Regions will likely secure a majority in parliament despite reports on Sunday that said there were numerous violations, including allegations some polling stations used disappearing ink during the voting.
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), an organization used by the United Nations to monitor elections, described the polls on Monday as “a tilted playing field,” according to a statement.
It cited a lack of transparency, biased media coverage, and an improper use of state resources by the ruling party to essentially secure its victory. The group, however, said that there were few voting irregularities on election day, which is in contrast to what some opposition leaders said on Sunday.
But OSCE said that the tabulation of the votes was problematic because the process lacked transparency.
“Considering the abuse of power, and the excessive role of money in this election, democratic progress appears to have reversed in Ukraine,” said Walburga Habsburg Douglas, a Swedish member of Parliament, who was in charge of the OSCE mission in Ukraine. Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, via his Twitter account, agreed with Douglas’s assessment that the elections were “a step backward” and called the whole thing “worrying.”
“One should not have to visit a prison to hear from leading political figures in the country,” Douglas said in statement, referring to jailed former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who was sentenced last year. The jailing of Tymoshenko, who was head of the Batkivshchyna opposition party, was decried by the European Union and U.S. State Department as politically motivated and likely orchestrated by Yanukovich, but Ukrainian officials said that she abused her power while in office.
The Batkivshchyna party received around 23.03 percent of the vote, compared with the ruling Party of Region’s 33.41 percent of the vote, according to the Interfax-Ukraine news agency.
Following the results, Tymoshenko announced a hunger strike to protest alleged vote-rigging in Ukraine, her lawyer told RIA Novosti.
“The elections were rigged from the first till the last day, and concealing this means killing Ukraine’s future,” lawyer Serhiy Vlasenko quoted the opposition leader as saying. Tymoshenko will not eat any food and will only drink water—the second time she has taken up a hunger strike in six months.
“Ukrainians deserved better from these elections. The ‘oligarchization’ of the whole process meant that citizens lost their ownership of the election, as well as their trust in it,” said Andreas Gross, the head of the EU’s Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. “Unfortunately, the great democratic potential of Ukrainian society was not realized in yesterday’s vote.”
OSCE noted that there was a relatively high voter turnout at the polls and the process was done well overall, meaning that many Ukrainians wish to take part in their country’s democratic process.
Ukrainian Premier Mykola Azarov of the Party of Regions said that if international observers don’t come to a positive conclusion about the elections then their assessment is inaccurate and they won’t be speaking the truth.
“We hope that in general all international observers will finish their work with positive conclusions. But if even they say something different, it will still be equal to saying that white is black,” he said on Monday, according to the Kyiv Post.
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