Ukraine elections hit by accusations of bribery and ballot stuffing

President's party should hold on to power despite strong showing for opposition in exit polls

The Ukranian President Viktor Yankovych was expected to retain his grip on the country's parliament following the country's elections yesterday amid accusations of intimidation, bribery and ballot stuffing and a strong challenge from the resurgent pro-Western opposition.

 

The vote is the first national election since Mr Yanukovych came to power in 2010 and the opposition is casting it as the last chance to halt a slide into authoritarianism and set the country back on a course to European integration.

Opposition parties led by the former leaders of the Orange Revolution are seeking to overturn Mr Yanukovych's grip on the Verkhovna Rada, the Ukrainian parliament, and put a brake on what they describe as a wholesale reversal of democratic reform that he has commenced in his two years as President. Although exit polls suggested a strong showing for them in the proportional part of the vote, Mr Yankovych's Party of Regions is thought likely to retain its parliamentary majority as its candidates are expected to take the lead in individual races across the country.

"We believe that this is an undisputable victory of the Party of Regions," Prime Minister Mykola Azarov said shortly after polls closed.

Yulia Tymoshenko, pictured, the jailed former Prime Minister who was defeated by Mr Yanukovych in the 2010 presidential election, condemned the vote. "Only a blind or deaf person could call this vote independent, regardless of who wins," she wrote on her website.

Mr Yanukovych's party hit back with their own accusations of dirty tricks. Ms Tymoshenko was jailed for seven years in 2011 on charges of exceeding her authority as Prime Minister in negotiating a gas deal with Russia in 2009. The sentence has been widely condemned as politically motivated. Her main ally is former Foreign Minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, who is leading the United Opposition, an alliance between his own supporters and those of Ms Tymoshenko, in the elections.

The Party of the Regions – the largest party in parliament – is seeking to maintain its grip on power with a platform of "stability, economic development and unity".

Both sides are battling widespread cynicism with politics that has even seen some voters publicly auction their ballots on social networking sites. One candidate hoping to profit from disillusionment is the reigning WBC heavyweight champion, Vitali Klitschko. His new party, appropriately called "Udar", which means "punch" in Ukrainian, is running on an anti-corruption and pro-European integration platform.

Opponents have scoffed at the 41-year-old boxer's lack of experience; apart from two failed bids to become Mayor of Kiev his only political experience is a stint on the Kiev city council. But a calculation that such inexperience would prove a hit amongst voters fed up with both Mr Yanukovych and the opposition seems to be paying off.

Recent opinion polls put Udar in second place behind the Party of the Regions with 16 per cent of the vote. Klitschko is not the only colourful candidate. In an era of declining faith in traditional politics, all sides have turned to celebrity tickets to try to bring in the votes. Parties have fielded candidates including a pop diva better known for her low-cut dresses, a retired footballer and also an actor. Whether these stars can bring out the vote is another question. Ukrainian politics is famously raucous and chaotic, and these elections promised to be no exception. All sides were reporting incidents of fraud, ballot stuffing and cyber attacks.

CELEBRITY CANDIDATES

Vitali Klitschko At 41 the heavyweight boxing champion is entering the twilight of his sporting career. He has promised to send corrupt politicians to jail and wants to see Ukraine join Europe.

Taisia Povaliy The President's party parachuted this pop diva into its number two. Povaliy, 47, has conceded politics was not her first calling: "But then I discovered that the people want me to represent them."

Andriy Shevchenko The former Chelsea and Milan striker retired from football this summer and is now heading the party list for the Ukraine Forward party. He said he will devote his attention to sports and health if elected.

Voices
Hunted: A stag lies dead on Jura, where David Cameron holidays and has himself stalked deer
voicesThe Scotland I know is becoming a playground for the rich
News
newsMcKamey Manor says 'there is no escape until the tour is completed'
News
people'When I see people who look totally different, it brings me back to that time in my life'
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
newsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
news
News
people

Britain First criticised for using actress's memory to draw attention to their 'hate-filled home page'

Arts and Entertainment
A photograph taken by David Redferm of Sonny Rollins
people
News
news

Emergency call 'started off dumb, but got pretty serious'

Extras
indybest
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Senior Research Fellow in Gender, Food and Resilient Communities

£47,334 - £59,058 per annum: Coventry University: The Centre for Agroecology, ...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker