Ukraine's ruling party led by President Victor Yanukovych will be the strongest force in parliament, election results show. But German politicians criticize that opposition parties were in a weak position to begin with.
According to most German politicians, parliamentary elections were far from being a glorious chapter of Ukrainian democracy. "That was a setback," Markus Meckel from Germany's main opposition party, the center-left SPD told DW. Meckel who observed the elections in Ukraine said things went relatively well on the actual election day but the election system itself was prone to corruption and vote buying. "What's more, media access for the opposition bloc was not provided for, it was very imbalanced."
Member of Parliament Viola von Cramon criticized "the systematic repression of the opposition in the run-up to the elections." Von Cramon, a member of Germany's Green Party, was an election observer for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in the east of Ukraine. She also pointed out that opposition parties had limited access to media, while President Viktor Yanukovych's governing Party of Regions could rely on the support of the government's administration for that.
In addition to that, according to von Cramon, national and local election commissions were biased and the election could therefore "not be considered free and fair." The OSCE called the elections a "democratic setback."
Despite the difficult circumstances, parts of the democratic opposition bloc were able to gain votes. That's "a positive signal," said foreign affairs politician Patrick Kurth of the pro-business liberal free democrats, FDP. "Especially that the Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reform (UDAR) with its leading candidate Vitali Klitschko made it into parliament can be considered a glimpse of hope."
Kurth said Klitschko's call for cooperation within opposition forces was an important step. Klitschko had asked the opposition parties to fight Yanukovych's "corrupt regime" together. But the nationalistic party Svoboda (freedom) will be sitting in the Ukrainian parliament for the first time as well - a party not likely to make for an easy partner for cooperation.
Moscow or Brussels?
The election results didn't really come as a surprise said foreign affairs politician Gernot Erler, a member of the SPD. "But with this [victory], Yanokovych also has the responsibility to lead his country through this agony." With regards to foreign affairs, the Ukrainian government would have to decide whether it wants closer ties with Europe or Russia in the future.
This view is echoed by Ruprecht Polenz, a member of Angela Merkel's conservative ruling Christian Democrat Party (CDU), and head of the Committee on Foreign Affairs: "Yanukovych conceals from his citizens that on the one hand he wants to take an economic approach towards the EU, but at the same time declines Europe's demands for reforms regarding the rule of law, democracy and human rights," Polenz told the newspaper Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung.
In the aftermath of the parliamentary election, German politicians urge the Ukrainian government to reform its justice system. Many judges and prosecutors in Ukraine are not independent but compliant helpers of the government. The politically motivated process against opposition politician and former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko is just one proof of many. She had to watch her Fatherland party results from prison where she's serving a seven-year sentence. The former figurehead of the Orange Revolution wasn't allowed to run, which was heavily criticized by international observers. Tymoshenko said she won't recognize the election results and has launched a hunger strike in protest.