By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspodent BosNewsLife reporting from Uzhhorod, Ukraine
UZHHOROD, UKRAINE (BosNewsLife)– Anti-government voters in western Ukraine have expressed concern that the party of Ukraine’s President Viktor Yanukovych has claimed victory in parliamentary elections. Sunday’s vote was overshadowed by the jailing of the country’s top opposition leader and former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. Her fans and others say the outcome will lead to more social tensions and split the former Soviet nation.
Despite a strong showing of pro-Western opposition parties, the Ukrainian president’s Party of Regions and Communist allies are expected to retain their parliamentary majority and form a new government.
Though ballots are still being counted, Prime Minister Minister Mykola Azarov already concluded that the Party of Regions has “an indisputable victory.”
That comes as a major setback for people in western Ukraine where many support the opposition.
Take 43-year-old Valja Kvics, speaking to BosNewsLife in the strategic border town of Uzhhorod.
Kvics, who takes care for her elderly ill parents, said she saw her dreams smashed by the current ruling party and that people are struggling.
“The biggest problem is the low income people have,” she noticed, while waiting on a local bus in the bitter autumn cold.
“We want that the government creates more jobs with better salaries. We now have about 1,500 or 2,000 hryvnia, that’s about 150 or 170 euro a month,”she said. “With these rising prices, that’s not enough.”
Kvics is upset that former Prime Minister Tymoshenko has been jailed on charges of abuse of power, despite international calls for her release as a condition for European Union membership
Tymoshenko’s Fatherland party received about a quarter of the ballots followed by the Udar, or ‘Punch’ party, of world boxing champion Vitali Klitschko with around 15 percent.
Klitschko already dealt a blow to the political establishment ruling out any parliamentary coalition with the ruling Party of Regions.
Yet, the opposition’s far-right Svoboda party, which campaigns for the defense of the Ukrainian language and culture also did well.
That was expected to raise international concern as it is also infamous for xenophobic and anti-Semitic rhetoric,
Tudor Kilaru, the 33-year-old charismatic presenter of the Uzhhorod-based regional ‘Tisa’ broadcaster, says he voted for Svoboda because of the ruling party’s pro-Russian policies.
He fears the election outcome will increase calls to split this country of 46 million people between its pro-Russian east and its pro-European Union west.
“Maybe if you get more patriotic, national ideas in the parliament maybe they will be a good balanced force to the pro-Russian forces. Parliament is now too pro-Russian,” he said.
“You don’t have any opposition towards that thought. That’s why I voted for that [Svoboda] party, that I really don’t like.”
With the West seeing the poll as a test of Ukraine’s commitment to democracy, the elections have been closely watched by observers from the OSCE European security and human rights body who will hand down their observations later on Monday.
(BosNewsLife’s NEWS WATCH is a regular look at key general news developments especially from, but not limited to, (former) Communist nations and other autocratic states impacting the Church and/or compassionate professionals).