Three exit polls put Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko’s party on track to win a plurality of seats in the country’s parliament on Sunday night. Supporters of ousted president Viktor Yanukovich, led by former energy minister Yuriy Boyko, would win between 7.6 and 10 percent of the votes.
The various surveys, released after polling stations closed, gave Poroshenko’s relatively liberal party around 23 percent support, not enough to win a majority in parliament. An alliance with Prime Minister Arseniy Yatseniuk’s more nationalist People’s Front is likely. The exit polls put its support around 21 percent.
Lviv mayor Andriy Sadovyi’s Christian Democrats were in third place with 11 to 14 percent support. His party, Samopomich, is pro-European like Poroshenko’s and Yatseniuk’s but its popularity is largely confined to the west of Ukraine.
In the east, voting took place in just over half the districts where pro-Russian separatists are determined to hold their own elections next month.
Altogether, seven parties would cross the 5 percent threshold and enter parliament, the communists being a notable exception. They had been represented in parliament since Ukraine won its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.
All pro-Russian parties fared poorly, as was expected. Since Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine in March and began supporting a separatist uprising in the southeastern Donbas region, even Russophone Ukrainians who were previously skeptical of a pro-Western policy switched decidedly in favor of deepening ties with the rest of Europe at the expense of the country’s historical and commercial relations with Russia.
Russia objected to Ukraine entering into an association agreement with the European Union that commits it to the gradual approximation of its economic, judicial and security policies to those of its western neighbors. When Yanukovich unexpectedly pulled out of the European talks late last year, hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians took to the streets of Kiev and forced him to resign.
The pact, which Poroshenko signed in June, also foresees the creation of a free-trade area between the European Union and Ukraine and precludes the former Soviet republic from joining President Vladimir Putin’s Eurasian Union.