Ukraine Voters Face Tough Choices

Ukrainians go to the polls on Sunday in a parliamentary election that may see the country split down the middle between those who favour closer ties to Russia and those who seek commonality with Europe.

Ukraine Voters Face Tough Choices
At the same time, in a remarkable turnaround, the vote may also see the return of the man defeated in the Orange Revolution, just over a year ago. With a stance stressing stronger ties with Russia and a more wary attitude to Europe and the West, polls put Viktor Yanukovitch's Party of the Regions around 10 points ahead of Our Ukraine - the party of Viktor Yushchenko, the president - the man who survived poisoning to lead the revolution to power.
Oleg Krasnov, a mechanic from Kiev, says: "People are very disillusioned with what has happened since then."
We are standing in a sunny but bitterly cold Independence Square, the place where in November and December 2004, thousands of Ukrainians - Krasnov included - camped out to protest presidential elections found fraudulent by many international and local observers.

Yanukovitch had been the winner of that flawed ballot, making him the target of the revolutionaries' wrath. A re-run ballot was then held in which Yushchenko emerged the victor.
No improvement
"Yushchenko made so many promises back then, but I haven't seen anything, absolutely nothing improve since then," says Krasnov. Yushchenko's administration reoriented the country towards the European Union and away from Moscow, trying to open the country towards more Western investment.

Yushchenko is seen as having
made many promises

Yet much of this failed to transpire, and moving away from Moscow is now seen as a mistake.
The Party of the Regions and its supporters in particular say this has exposed Ukraine to problems such when the Russians cut off the natural gas on which Ukraine is dependent, after demanding Kiev pay the full market price last January.
During more pro-Russian administrations in Ukraine, the gas had been provided at heavily discounted prices.
Economic growth has also slowed and many ordinary Ukrainians are finding it difficult to make ends meet.
Irina Kushek, who works for Kiev municipality, sweeping Independence Square with her two colleagues, Luba Cherednyk and Oksama Krasmoynyk, says "there is no work where we are".

All three came to Kiev from the countryside. "Almost everyone in the villages leaves and comes to Kiev because there is no work back home," she says. But Cherednyk adds: "We want to work in the place where we come from. We also want the politicians and people here to stop stealing and pay us a decent wage."
Corruption, inflation
In Kiev, many complain of government corruption and of rising rents and house prices. Vayda Zhamna, a waitress in a café off the square, says "the rent has literally doubled in the last year and then doubled again.
"House prices are too much to ever dream of owning your own home."

Krasmoynyk says: "Speculators have done this. The corrupt ones, at the top in government, are hand in hand with developers and it's pushing prices through the roof."

Timoshenko's posters are part
of a well-fought campaign

Yet some things have changed since Yushchenko took office.

His constitutional reforms have made parliament more powerful - making Sunday's elections even more important.
In terms of political developments, the coalition which made the Orange revolution a reality last year has since split, with Yushchenko sacking the charismatic Iulia Timoshenko from her job as prime minister.
The two have been bitter opponents ever since and she has gone on to form her own party, the Timoshenko Bloc, which is beating Yushchenko's party in the polls.
Timoshenko rising
Timoshenko's glamorous looks and well-fought campaign,  which has focused largely on her personality, are widely expected to give her the second largest group of deputies in parliament.
"We will all three of us vote for Timoshenko," says Krasmoynyk. 
"After all these men have been in power, the least they could do is have one woman." Kiev-based political analyst Pavel Nemenko has been monitoring the rise and fall of the respective parties and wondering who would win enough seats to form a majority government.
"The Party of the Regions may emerge the largest group, but they will not have a majority. They are also confined largely to the pro-Russian east of the country"
"They will have to enter coalition, but Timoshenko has said she will never go into coalition with the Party of the Regions, which leaves it open for Yushchenko to end up together with Yanukovitch, the very man he ousted a year ago."

Rigging ruled out

Meanwhile, few expect any widespread vote rigging this time, or anything like the events in neighbouring Belarus. Urdur Gunnarsdottir of the OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), who are monitoring the campaign, told, that "it's not a perfect election here. But the fundamental things are right this time".

So while Ukrainians may have some difficult choices ahead, "at least this time we have a choice", adds Zhamna. "That has to be better, hasn't it?" Some 44 parties are running, with the parliamentary elections also being held alongside municipal, district and mayoral races.

Source: Al Jazeera

Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16