Exit Polls in Ukraine Local Elections Show East-West Split

By The Associated Press
The Associated Press
The Associated Press
October 26, 2015 Updated: October 26, 2015

MARIUPOL, Ukraine—Four exit polls from Ukraine’s local elections released Monday indicated the governing coalition would retain its dominant position in the west and center of the country despite widespread disappointment with the government of President Petro Poroshenko.

In the south and east, voters favored the Opposition Bloc, formed from the remnants of the party of the former pro-Russia president, who was overthrown in early 2014 after months of street protests.

The Central Election Committee said it had received data from only 30 percent of the vote by Monday morning, reflecting the challenge of calculating the results of elections for more than 10,700 local councils as well as mayors. More than 130 parties fielded candidates. Complete results were expected Nov. 4.

Sunday’s elections were held nationwide, except for parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of eastern Ukraine controlled by Russia-backed rebels. In eastern areas recaptured by government forces, former separatists ran for office as candidates from the Opposition Bloc.

Poroshenko’s party and others in his coalition had hoped to expand their influence through the local elections, but this proved not so easy to do, political analyst Vladimir Fesenko said. “The disposition of forces shows that the country is divided,” he said.

The elections also were seen as a test of strength for oligarchs accustomed to holding sway in their own regions.

In Mariupol, a major port and steel city on the Sea of Azov, voting was scrapped on Sunday because of tensions over the influence of Rinat Akhmetov, Ukraine’s richest man whose industrial holdings are key to the city’s economy. The local election commission refused to accept ballots printed by a company owned by Akhmetov, who supports the Opposition Bloc.

Political conflicts also led to the postponement of elections in the eastern cities of Krasnoarmiisk and Svatovo. No date has been set for holding those elections.

The winner of the mayoral race in Kiev and several other big cities will be decided only in a second round on Nov. 15 because none of the candidates got more than 50 percent of the vote. In Kiev, the capital, the exit polls showed the incumbent mayor, former heavyweight boxing champion Vitali Klitschko, with a strong lead.

In Dnipropetrovsk, another major industrial city, the party associated with local tycoon Ihor Kolomoysky was on track to dominate the city council. His mayoral candidate faced a second round.