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Ukraine Voters Go to Polls Again


After five months of political infighting, Ukraine will once again try to elect a parliamentary government. VOA's Jeff Swicord reports on what has been a difficult road to democracy in the former Soviet republic.

Ukrainians go to the polls Sunday, 30 September, in yet another attempt to break the deadlock that has consumed the political process since the Orange Revolution in 2004. This round of parliamentary elections once again pits the pro-Western party of President Viktor Yushchenko against the Russia-leaning party of Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych.

Analysts agree that offering voters the same choices for the third national vote in three years will not resolve differences. When asked if the elections will resolve the current political crisis, Marta Matselioukh with the pro-democracy U.S. Ukraine Foundation says she is an optimist, but there is no denying the political divide. "Some analysts believe that even though the elections are held on September 30th the results will not be found out for a long time afterward. Especially since the parties do have the right to dispute the results in court," she says.

The 2004 Orange Revolution marked what many hoped would be the transformation of Ukrainian politics. Pro-Western Mr. Yushchenko and sometime ally Yulia Tymoshenko defeated rival Viktor Yanukovych in the rerun of a rigged election that brought protesters into the streets of Kyiv.

Mr. Yanukovych was later elected prime minister in 2006. Then in April of this year, President Yushchenko dissolved the parliament and called for new elections, but they have been postponed several times. Jan Neutze with The Atlantic Council says the political infighting is also affecting Ukraine's credibility abroad at a time when it is seeking European Union membership. "If Ukraine repeats its performance of last year, where it took the country about five months to form a government, I think it runs the risk of truly losing its international credibility."

Politicians have tried to steer the debate toward social welfare and corruption. Government statistics put the average income at $250 a month. The economy has continued to grow at over 7 percent in the last year.

A poll by the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology indicates that 33 percent of voters favor Mr. Yanukovych, 12 percent support Mr. Yushchenko and 23 percent back Ms. Tymoshenko's pro-democracy block. If those numbers mirror the final vote, coalition negotiations will be necessary to form a ruling party. Many expect them to be fierce. Jan Neutze with The Atlantic Council adds, "Depending on the strength of the individual players, they will determine the coalition and clearly you will have a coalition government. The scenarios are almost equally likely. So that is what makes Ukraine such an interesting country to work on."

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