Ukraine's Leading Party Coming Out Strong

-By Warner Todd Huston

There are a lot of Chicagoans from Ukraine, so I thought it might be interesting to take a look at what is going on there with the upcoming elections.

Ukraine is readying itself for its first nationwide ballot since President Viktor Yanukovych took office and polls are now showing that Yanukovych's Party of Regions is the favorite going into the elections scheduled for October 28.

36.7 million registered voters will get a chance to vote in an election governed by new laws that have for the first time brought Ukraine's electoral system more in line with western standards.

Polling from several third-party, independent firms are reporting that the Party of Regions holds a 9 to 12 point advantage thus far. The polls show the Party of Regions garnering between 27 and 29 percent in the crowded field of parties vying for seats in the Verkhovna Rada (Ukraine's Parliament).

MPs in Ukraine are elected for five-year terms with half the 450 seats allotted through a proportional system among qualifying parties while the other half is meted out among individual candidates in single-seat constituencies.

The next closest parties in popularity are the Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reform, or UDAR (the acronym means "punch" in Ukrainian), and the United Opposition (Yulia Tymoshenko's Fatherland Party -- or Batkivshchyna -- is part of this coalition), which are battling for second and third place with UDAR seeming to have a slight advantage there.

Former heavy-weight boxer Vitali "Dr. Ironfist" Klitschko is the public face of UDAR and under his leadership the new party seems to have gained the upper hand over Yulia Tymoshenko's Fatherland Party. In fact, United Opposition reportedly made early agreements with UDAR to coordinate efforts, but recent disputes have arisen to cast this partnership in doubt.

Along with the Party of Regions, UDAR, and United Opposition, the Communist Party also seems poised to cross the 5 percent threshold to gain seats. Several other leading parties, though, are struggling to reach that goal. Svoboda and Ukraine Forward!, for instance, might have an uphill battle to reach the 5 percent needed for eligibility.

In all, Yanukovych's Party of Regions has led strongly in polls since polling began putting President Yanukovych in a strong position to remain a powerful leader in a growing Ukraine.

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