KIEV (Reuters) - Pro-Europe parties secured a big win in an election in Ukraine, a partial vote count showed on Monday, with President Petro Poroshenko hailing people’s support for his plan to end a separatist war and pursue democratic reforms sought by the West.
Early figures from the vote count showed that Poroshenko’s bloc and the party of his ally, Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk, were both taking over 21 percent of the votes cast from a field of 29 competing parties.
Addressing Ukrainians two hours after polling ended on Sunday night, he thanked voters for backing a “democratic, reformist, pro-Ukrainian and pro-European majority”.
“The majority of voters were in favor of the political forces that support the president’s peace plan and seek a political solution to the situation in the Donbass,” Poroshenko said, referring to the region of the industrialised east where government forces have been fighting separatist rebels.
With more than a quarter of the vote counted, the central election commission gave the People’s Front of Yatseniuk a vote share of 21.67 percent fractionally ahead of Poroshenko’s bloc which was on 21.63 percent.
An earlier partial count and exit polls had put Poroshenko’s grouping slightly in the lead.
The result showed Poroshenko, a 49-year-old confectionery magnate, was now likely to continue working in close tandem with Yatseniuk, with the latter possibly staying on as prime minister to handle sensitive talks with the West on aid for the war-shattered economy.
Though a hawk in dealings with Russia, Yatseniuk is liked in the West for his commitment to deep reforms and astute stewardship of the economy which has been wrecked by the separatist conflict in the eastern regions.
The figures, which roughly confirmed earlier exit polls, put another pro-Europe party from western Ukraine in third place.
Poroshenko said the People’s Front was the “main partner” in any parliamentary coalition and talks to form the majority could begin on Monday. He wanted talks to be wrapped up quickly to form Ukraine’s “best government”.
But a surprise was the strong performance registered by allies of ousted president Viktor Yanukovich. The Opposition Bloc of ex-Fuel Minister Yuriy Boiko was on 9.62 percent, easily enough to put the party into parliament, according to the latest available figures from the count.
Though a fuller picture will not take shape for hours, it was clear a pro-Western assembly was emerging from the first parliamentary election since Yanukovich’s overthrow by street protests in February.
The count gave a partial read-out only of party voting for 225 of the 450 seats in parliament. Results from voting for single constituency seats will be known only in a few days time.
The election completed attempts by Poroshenko and his allies to restore normalcy to the sprawling country of 46 million after a year of turmoil and violence.
The overthrow of Yanukovich by “Euromaidan” street protests, which broke out when he ditched a deal to take Ukraine closer to Europe and out of the Russian orbit, led to Russia denouncing a “fascist” coup and annexing Ukraine’s Crimea.
Moscow went on to back separatist rebellions in Ukraine’s industrialised east which have killed more than 3,700 people.
Despite the surprise showing of Boiko’s Opposition Bloc, other traditional allies of Russia such as the communists flopped and the make-up of the future pro-Europe assembly seemed likely to spell future tensions with Moscow with which Ukraine is also locked in a dispute over gas prices.
It will be the first time the communists have been out of parliament since Ukraine gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.
“We can say today that a third of voters support the president’s course for carrying out reforms for entering the European Union,” said Yuriy Lutsenko, the leader of the Poroshenko Bloc.
With the pro-Europe party Selfhelp in third place on 10.56 percent, according to the early count figures, Poroshenko should be able to forge a coalition to move Ukraine towards the European mainstream.
Other parties which seemed likely to enter parliament on the basis of the exit poll included the Radical Party of populist Oleh Lyashko. The Batkivshchyna (Fatherland) party of former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko performed worse than many had expected, but with almost 6 percent from the partial count was above the bar required to enter parliament.
The outcome suggested many war veterans and “Euromaidan” activists enlisted as candidates will enter parliament, giving it a strong patriotic and nationalist flavor.
Boiko, whose party has criticised Poroshenko’s policies in the east and campaigned in Yanukovich’s power bases there, said on Sunday night he would work for the “removal of the current authorities”.
After battlefield losses, Poroshenko has said he would resolve the conflict in the east only by political negotiations.
Voting did not take place on Sunday in areas held by the rebels or in Crimea. In eastern regions controlled by the army, armed soldiers guarded polling stations under Ukraine’s flag.
Separatist rebels entrenched in the big eastern cities of Donetsk and Luhansk said they were ignoring the Ukrainian election and still planned to go ahead with a rival vote on Nov. 2 to further their calls for independence.
Additional reporting by Natalia Zinets; Writing by Richard Balmforth; Editing by Michael Perry