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Ukraine Holds Local Elections That Test Oligarchs' Reach

Ukraine Holds Local Elections That Test Oligarchs' Reach

Sunday, 25 October 2015 11:28 AM

MARIUPOL, Ukraine (AP) — Ukrainians voted Sunday in local elections that were seen as a test of the strength of President Petro Poroshenko's government and of the oligarchs accustomed to running regions of the country.

Voters were choosing more than 10,700 local councils as well as mayors. However, resentment and disappointment was high among the electorate and elections were not held in parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of eastern Ukraine controlled by Russia-backed rebels.

Voting was also scrapped in the last minute in Mariupol, a major port and steel city, where tensions have been brewing over the influence of Rinat Akhmetov, Ukraine's richest man whose industrial holdings are key to Mariupol's economy.

Nerves in Mariupol were already frayed after more than a year of worry that the city was about to be overrun by Russia-backed rebels who had seized territory just a few kilometers (miles) away. On Sunday, the local election commission refused to accept the ballots because they had been printed by a company owned by Akhmetov.

"We clearly see in Mariupol the battle between forces for Akhmetov and forces against Akhemtov," said political analyst Oleksandr Solontai.

Poroshenko ordered the national parliament and central elections commission to make sure the vote took place soon.

Sunday's election was the third held nationwide since the chaotic overthrow of the pro-Moscow president in February 2014, the annexation of Crimea by Russia and the start of a war with Russia-backed separatists that has killed more than 8,000 people and left much of the country's industrial treasures outside central government control.

As Ukraine struggles to find stability and repair its deeply wounded economy, its people are dismayed with the national government and despairing of its ability to tackle widespread corruption. A September poll by the International Republican Institute showed two thirds of the population were frustrated by the pace of reform efforts and more than half disapproved of the Kiev government. Yet no incumbent of significance came close to even 50 percent approval.

In Dnipropetrovsk, another major industrial city, the competition for mayor centered on a candidate from a party made up of supporters of the ousted president and one backed by local tycoon Ihor Kolomoysky, a contentious figure who funded battalions of fighters who opposed the separatist rebels.

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Ukrainians voted Sunday in local elections that were seen as a test of the strength of President Petro Poroshenko's government and of the oligarchs accustomed to running regions of the country.Voters were choosing more than 10,700 local councils as well as mayors. However,...
EU,Ukraine,Local,Elections
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2015-28-25
Sunday, 25 October 2015 11:28 AM
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