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Ukrainians Skeptical About Parliamentary Election

Ukrainian voters go to the polls on Sunday in a special election to choose a new parliament. But as VOA correspondent Peter Fedynsky reports from Kyiv there is widespread doubt about the credibility of the election and the likelihood it will change what many believe to be the country's fundamental political problem.

Major Ukrainian political parties have indicated a readiness to protest election results that are not in their favor. Such readiness reflects suspicions that the vote count may be rigged. A sizable disparity between exit polls and the official tally provided by Ukraine's Central Election Commission is expected to trigger protests by whichever side feels cheated.

Serhiy Tarnawsky, a Kyiv art dealer, is boycotting the vote and expresses doubt that exit polls will allay possible questions about the final result.

Tarnawsky says exit polls are not necessarily objective. She says they depend on how questions are asked, what intonation is used, and what is accentuated.

Tarnawsky doubts the election will change anything, but recognizes the underlying stakes, including the very unity of Ukraine, and the country's political orientation between East and West, between Russia and NATO.

The Regions Party of Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych leans toward Russia and is expected to win the largest number of seats in parliament.

ByuT, an abbreviation for Bloc of Yulia Tymoshenko, is expected to come in second in the vote, followed by Our Ukraine, the pro-western party of President Viktor Yushchenko. Ms. Tymoshenko, a former prime minister, was allied with President Viktor Yushchenko during the so-called Orange Revolution following the disputed 2004 presidential election. After the vote, Our Ukraine may form an alliance with Timoshenko's movement to form a majority in the 450-seat assembly.

Lack of unity among the pro-Western Orange Forces, however, could give their common opponent in the Regions Party the upper hand in deciding the next parliamentary coalition

The Socialist Party may not break the minimum threshold required for representation in Parliament and could be replaced by the party of former speaker Anatoly Lytvyn.

Valeria Vladimirovna, a Russian-speaker and wife of a retired Soviet fighter pilot, says her vote is for Regions, though she supports Ukrainian independence and prefers a non-aligned status. She too doubts the election will change Ukraine's fundamental political problem, which she pins on a flawed constitution that allows for an ongoing power struggle between the president, prime minister and parliament.

Vladimirova says that despite the flaws in the constitution, she hopes some measure of truth will emerge from what she calls the current friction.

She says wealthy politicians are running Ukraine and ignoring the needs of ordinary people, retirees, the homeless, and the education of Ukrainian youth.

Bohdan Ostrovsky, a folk musician from a village in Western Ukraine, says he and his friends are splitting their votes. Some, including Ostrovsky, will vote for Our Ukraine, others for the Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc.

The September 30 special election comes as the result of President Viktor Yushchenko's decision in April to dissolve parliament. He had accused the Regions Party of using unconstitutional tactics to convince lawmakers to switch parties to gain a parliamentary majority.