Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych on Monday praised Sunday’s parliamentary elections in the country.
“I congratulate the people of Ukraine on an important step in the development of a free independent democratic state,” the presidential press service quoted Yanukovych as saying.
He said the vote, in which Yanukovych’s ruling Party of Regions is leading with about 33 percent after 70 percent of election protocols have been counted, was peaceful and well organized.
“I am glad that in line with preliminary assessments by many Ukrainian and international observers, including the OSCE, the elections took place well from the technical viewpoint. Voters had a wide range of candidates to choose from,” Yanukovych said.
Several opposition parties also gained considerable ground in these polls, to the point of posing a potential threat to the ruling party’s hold over the 450-seat legislature.
International observers on Monday slammed Ukraine’s parliamentary elections as “a step backward” for democracy and said the vote was marred by fraud, intimidation and other abuses.
The observers criticized the pre-election media coverage as unfair, and also pointed to a lack of transparency in campaign finances and the abuse of administrative resources. They slammed what they called the inordinate campaign spending by the Party of Regions and its financial backers, many of them wealthy businessmen from the party’s support base in southern and eastern Ukraine.
Ukrainian Central Election Committee chief Volodymyr Shapoval dismissed those allegations at a press conference on Monday. Prime Minister Mykola Azarov told reporters late Sunday night that the vote had been fair.
Ukraine’s jailed former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko has declared a hunger strike in protest at what she calls vote-rigging in the parliamentary election, her lawyer told Ukrainian media on Monday.