Elections in Ukraine are pointing to a new parliament that will be dominated by pro-Western parties, a result that President Petro Poroshenko is hailing as a “course toward Europe” but one that is likely to further anger Russia.
NPR’s Corey Flintoff reports from Kiev that exit polls show the bloc supporting Porsohenko is projected to win about 23 percent of the vote, followed closely by an allied party, the People’s Front, with around 21 percent.
“If all the pro-Western parties join a coalition, they would have enough votes to change Ukraine’s constitution and bring about reforms,” Corey says.
Poroshenko hailed the vote as a mandate to end a rebellion in the country’s east and to steer the country further away from Russian influence.
“More than three-quarters of voters who took part in the election powerfully and irreversibly supported Ukraine’s course toward Europe,” he said in an address.
“The majority of voters were in favor of the political forces that support the president’s peace plan and seek a political solution to the situation” in eastern Ukraine, Poroshenko said.
(One region not voting is Crimea, which was annexed by Russia earlier this year. NPR’s David Greene has a report that aired on Morning Edition here.)
As Corey explains: “Ukraine’s new parliament will have to face nearly insurmountable challenges–a war with Russian-backed separatists, a financial crisis, and a dispute with Russia over natural gas.”
Reuters notes: “Russia’s President Vladimir Putin can still influence events, not least as the main backer of the rebels in the east and through Moscow’s role as natural gas supplier to Ukraine and the EU.”
Poroshenko was expected to begin coalition talks on Monday.
Updated at 11:30 a.m. ET. White House Reaction:
In a statement attributed to President Obama, he called on Russia to allow voting in parts of Ukraine’s east that are held by Moscow-backed separatists.
“Yesterday’s parliamentary vote represents another important milestone in Ukraine’s democratic development,” he said in the statement. “We look forward to the convening of the new parliament and the quick formation of a strong, inclusive government.”
“The United States stands ready to support the choices of the Ukrainian people and Ukraine’s new government as it enacts and implements the reforms necessary to promote further democratic development, strengthen the rule of law, and foster economic stability and growth in Ukraine,” Obama said.