Ukraine's ruling Party of Regions has won the most votes in the country's parliamentary elections.
"The independent candidates who have regional political or economic influence have managed to come first in the elections. And this is a very interesting factor because in some ways, money and political power regionally has influenced the outcome of the elections."
- Lilit Gevorgyan, an analyst at IHS Global Insight
But even as the party claims the vote showed confidence in President Viktor Yanukovych, European observers have raised serious questions about the process.
Even heading into the elections there were concerns about the transparency of the electoral process and the degree of control and manipulation being exercised by the president.
Most significantly, international observers were critical about the jailing of opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko, who herself was in no doubt that the elections were tainted.
"This is a battle between all sensible and strong people and an absolute evil. Only the blind and the deaf can define these elections as fair and just, regardless of who will win them," she said.
"It's clear for us that our country voted for changes, the ruling party [got more votes] but it's just one third of the vote. All the rest went to the opposition parties which is really impressive. We didn't have a fair competition during this campaign, the ruling party put our leader Yulia Tymoshenko in jail, and used [an] enormous amount of money and resources in order to win. Nevertheless, the nation did vote for change and that's very impressive."
- Andriy Shevchenko, a member of the Ukrainian parliament
And Tymoshenko's concerns were amplified on Monday by European election observers.
Andreas Gross, the head of the parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe, said: "Ukrainians deserved better from these elections. The 'oligarchisation' of the whole process meant that citizens lost their ownership of the election, as well as their trust in it. Unfortunately, the great democratic potential of Ukrainian society was not realised in yesterday's vote."
The critical report from the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) may well have a significant impact on Ukraine's relationship with Europe. As well as demanding the release of Tymoshenko in particular, the EU set the following three conditions for the normalisation of relations with Ukraine:
- an end to the selective prosecution of political opponents
- free and fair elections according to international standards
- reform of the judiciary and the constitution
Rising unemployment, a looming recession, and balancing Ukraine's relationship with both Russia to the east and the EU to the west are just a few of the issues facing the next government.
So has democracy taken a step backwards in Ukraine?
To discuss the election result, and the future path of Ukraine, Inside Story, with presenter Teymoor Nabili, is joined by guests: Andriy Shevchenko, a member of parliament for the United Opposition coalition; Lilit Gevorgyan, an analyst at IHS Global Insight and a specialist in the affairs of former Soviet Republics and central Asian countries; and Maxim Eristavi, a presenter at Voice of Capital radio.
"This test to have free and fair elections is decisive for the future of Ukraine. Without free and fair elections we have no chance to continue this dialogue, we have no chance to go forward. It is really challenging, but it is possible."
Aleksander Kwasniewski, a former Polish president who is currently in charge of the EU's monitoring mission to Ukraine
FACTS ABOUT UKRAINE'S ELECTION:
- International observers say the Ukrainian elections lacked a level playing field
- Ukrainian officials said the election passed smoothly with a turnout of 45 per cent
- The far-right Svoboda Party is set to break the five per cent threshold
- Dozens of independents are set to win single mandate seats in parliament
- Yanukovych said the elections will move the country towards unity
- The Ukrainian opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko, who is serving a seven-year sentence for abuse of power, voted from jail
- Tymoshenko has warned voters of an "imminent dictatorship"