Pro-Western Parties Win Big in Ukraine Elections
Photo: Ukrainian soldiers leave a booth at a polling station during parliamentary elections in Kiev, Ukraine, Sunday, Oct. 26, 2014. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
Pro-Western parties have won a resounding victory in Ukraine’s parliamentary elections, the first such voting since mass protests swept the nation’s Russian-backed president from office earlier this year.
On Tuesday, with 90 percent of ballots counted, President Petro Poroshenko’s bloc and Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk’s party held the lead with at least 22 percent of the vote each.
“More than three-quarters of voters who took part in the polls gave strong and irreversible backing to Ukraine’s path to Europe,” Poroshenko said during a news conference on Monday.
“The main task,” Yatsenyuk said, “is to quickly form a pro-European coalition for carrying out agreements with the EU.”
The election comes nearly a year after Ukraine’s former president, Viktor Yanukovych, sparked mass anti-government protests with his decision to abandon a landmark trade pact with the European Union in favor of closer ties with Russia. The protests swelled until they eventually led to his ouster.
In FRONTLINE’s The Battle for Ukraine filmmaker James Jones explored how the protests in Kiev gave way to violent clashes between pro-Ukrainian and separatist forces in the country’s eastern regions — a conflict that continues to this day.
The United Nations estimates that more than 3,500 people have been killed in eastern Ukraine since April. In September, Poroshenko’s government and pro-Russian rebels agreed to a ceasefire, which remains in place despite numerous violations by both sides.
The eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk — which formed the heart of Ukraine’s pro-Russian movement and are still under separatist control — did not take part in the elections, because they plan to hold their own vote for leaders and legislatures on Nov. 2. Ukraine and its Western allies have said the second vote should not take place, while Russia said it would recognize its results.
Donetsk and Luhansk, along with Crimea which was annexed by Russia in April, have traditionally voted for Russia-leaning parties.
Russia, which Ukraine has accused of arming and aiding the rebels, accepted Ukraine’s election results, but warned about the presence of “openly nationalistic and chauvinistic forces” in the country.
Watch The Battle for Ukraine below: