Voters in Ukraine are casting their ballots on Sunday in the country’s parliamentary elections. As of Sunday morning, there were already complaints of bribery near some polling stations.
KIEV, UKRAINE – The ruling “Party of Regions” is likely to keep its majority, thanks to a revised election system that will allow single-mandate district winners to caucus with the party-in-power. The means that even though opposition groups, including the United Opposition (lead by the jailed former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshchenko) and UDAR (led for the world boxing champion Vitali Klitshchko) will likely do better in the proportional representation part of the race, which accounts for half of the 450 seats in the Rada (parliament), the ruling party will likely stay in power thanks to its ability to lure the first-past-the-post winners to join them.
The vote is less about issues and more about one individual: Tymoshchenko. The government has made an example of her, the opposition has made a martyr of her.
The European Union is closely watching the vote, which the High Commissioner Baroness Catherine Ashton has dubbed a “litmus” test for democracy in Ukraine.
More than 3,500 international election observers are on hand, from the CIS (former Soviet countries) and the West, including the United States, Canada, and Israel. As of Sunday morning, there were already complaints of buying votes near some polling stations, to which the police responded.
The results are not likely change the face of Ukraine’s leadership. Though if the opposition does well, particularly Tymoshchenko’s party, it could give them momentum for the more critical vote in the presidential race in 2015. Tymoshchenko is still in jail, having just completed her first of seven-years jail sentence over a gas deal signed with Russia. That deal saw Ukraine buying the most expensive natural gas in Europe, at an annual government subsidy of nearly five million dollars. Still, European leaders have expressed their concerns that Tymoshchenko is being selectively persecuted by the Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukoych, who they fear has pressured the courts. Her case is currently under review by the European Court of Human Rights, which could force Kiev’s hand in releasing her.
WATCH: Ukrainian voters prepare to vote