Ukranians have begun voting in parliamentary polls – the first electoral test for President Viktor Yushchenko since the Orange Revolution which swept him to power. At stake is the fate of a country whose leaders have been unable to deliver on promises of closer European integration after prising Ukraine loose from centuries of Russian domination.
Yushchenko’s reputation has been tarnished by Ukraine’s stuttering economy, political infighting and corruption allegations. His “Our Ukraine” party is expected to come in second which will compel him to work with old foes such as Yulia Tymoshenko, whom he sacked as prime minister last year. Her party lies third. Opinion polls suggest the Regions Party of Moscow-backed Viktor Yanukovich is most likely to take the biggest slice of the vote.
Such an outcome would mark a massive comeback for the former President who was humiliated by Yushchenko in a presidential poll re-run after the 2004 Orange Revolution street protests. Some 37-million voters are eligible to cast ballots for a 450-seat parliament, which for the first time will have the power to appoint the prime minister.