Ukraine Looks to Reform With an Eye on Europe

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) -
Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko talks to the media during a news briefing in Kiev following the elections.  (REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko)
Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko talks to the media during a news briefing in Kiev following the elections.
(REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko)

As Ukraine’s most ardently pro-European parties pocketed a resounding collective election triumph Monday, thoughts turned to a reform agenda that promises pain and progress in equal doses.

Although the outcome of Sunday’s vote is in part fruit of a surge in anti-Russian sentiment, Moscow says it will recognize the result and urged Ukraine’s new order to grapple with the country’s most pressing problems.

With most of the vote counted, the three main Western-leaning parties alone stood to win a combined 54 percent of the vote. Coalition negotiations were already underway.

Parliament is now largely purged of the loyalists of former President Viktor Yanukovych, who sparked months of protests — and eventually his ouster in February — with his decision to deepen ties with Russia instead of the European Union.

Of the European-minded parties, Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk’s Popular Front had 21.9 percent of the vote while President Petro Poroshenko’s party had 21.5 percent. A new pro-European party based in western Ukraine was running third with 11 percent.

The Fatherland party of former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who has argued strongly for NATO membership and is likely to join a pro-Europe coalition, had 5.7 percent of the vote.

Poroshenko last month laid out an ambitious agenda envisioning significant changes to Ukraine’s police, justice and tax systems, defense sector and health care — all to be completed by 2020. Among the tougher decisions ahead will be allowing the cost of utilities in the cash-strapped country to float in line with market dictates.

Poroshenko has also said he wants to see Ukraine become more self-reliant for its energy needs and farm out more powers to local government.

The precise recipe of policies to be pursued is subject of coalition negotiations.

Messages from Western governments congratulating Ukraine on its election pressed the reform theme further.

Despite the nominal truce agreed in early September, battles between government troops and pro-Russian separatist fighters in Eastern Ukraine remain a daily constant. Rebel authorities spurned Ukraine’s election and almost 3 million potential voters in areas under their control did not cast their ballot.