Support The Moscow Times!

Poll Will Not Split Ukraine, Ex-Speaker Says

KIEV— Ukraine's second ranking political figure said Tuesday that inconclusive elections would not split theformer Soviet republic along ideological lines.? 

Outgoing parliament speaker Ivan Plyushch dismissed suggestions that athreat tothe country's future was posed bylast Sunday's first round voting, which exposed agrowing gap between nationalist western andpro-Russian eastern Ukraine.? 

"There is no such thing as western or eastern Ukraine," Plyushch said inhis office inparliament. "Someone is merely trying very hard tohinder theprocess ofreform anddemocratization."? 

"The easiest way todo this is encourage aclash between east andwest. But this has no future andwill not work."? 

Sunday's first round returned 49 ofparliament's 450 members outright, far more than had been predicted byopinion polls.? 

Turnout of75 percent exceeded all expectations given two years ofplunging living standards andpalpable revulsion with theoutgoing Soviet-era parliament dominated byold-style communists.? 

Ironically the14 communists elected toparliament represented thelargest single faction returned inSunday's first round, but their leader was quick tostress his party's disdain forthe old order.? 

"Voting forcommunists means rejecting thecurrent state ofaffairs," said party leader Pyotr Simonenko bytelephone Monday fromDonetsk, inthe heart ofthe Donbass coal field inpro-Russian eastern Ukraine, where thecommunist platform ofcloser links with Russia was particularly popular with theelectorate.? 

Communists were not alone inadvocating closer links with Ukraine's eastern neighbor. Voters intwo districts also backed bywide margins plebiscites calling forcloser integration with Moscow, afederal state structure andequal status forthe Russian language alongside Ukrainian.? 

InCrimea, run bya Russian nationalist president since January, voters backed an"opinion poll" calling forgreater devolution ofpowers.? 

But ina move that came as ablow tothe peninsula's hopes formore autonomy, theUnited States onMonday stressed that it considered theCrimean peninsula part ofUkraine.? 

"We don't have adifferent view ofCrimea than theone that we've stated often here," McCurry told reporters, citing U.S. "concern about theterritorial integrity ofUkraine, including Crimea."? 

He said theCrimea initiative approved inSunday's polls "didn't have any legal bearing or any legal standing under theconstitution ofUkraine."? 

Outgoing parliament chairman Plyushch, who has frequently challenged Kravchuk's authority andis seen as one ofseveral challengers toKravchuk inpresidential elections planned forJune, was easily elected inChernihiv district near theRussian border.? 

Before thefirst round ofthe poll, Kravchuk had called fora postponement ofthe presidential poll andsuggested he could ask formore powers if Ukraine's cumbersome electoral law left one-third ofthe parliament's seats vacant. He has since made no comment andaides said he planned no statements.? 

"I am convinced that presidential elections will be held," Plyushch said.? 

"But what sort ofelections will take place will depend onhow soon thenew parliament forms agovernment andhow soon it resolves overall questions ofinterest toUkraine.? 

"We need toreform executive power toplace it inone pair ofhands," Plyushch continued. "Who will head executive power, theprime minister or president? Then we shall see what kind ofpresidential elections will take place."? 

Theresults demonstrated that Ukrainians retain atleast some faith intheir post-Soviet institutions -- inapparent contrast tovoters inneighboring Russia, where turnout inDecember's election was only about 53 percent.? 

Read more