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Elections in Ukraine: orange or blue?

On Sunday, the Ukraine, one of the European Union’s most important neighbors, goes to the polls and a delegation from the European Parliament will be there to observe whether or not the elections are up to international standards.

The three main parties are led by President Viktor Yushchenko, Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych and Yulia Tymoshenko, former prime minister and an ally of the President during the 2004 “Orange Revolution”. The President and Prime Minister agreed to hold early parliamentary elections in May after a mounting political crisis.

EP to observe elections
A delegation of 14 MEPs heads to the Ukraine on Thursday to observe the elections. Kostiantyn Yelisieiev, the deputy head of the Ukraine Mission to the EU, who participated in preparations for the visit said, “Ukrainian society and politicians listen very attentively to what the EP is saying (and would be) grateful if EP delegation would not only observe but also articulate a message and give advice.”

Recent political developments
In 2004 Ukraine underwent the "Orange Revolution", when large-scale popular protests broke out after the presidential elections, which were officially won by Viktor Yanukovich, who was backed by the outgoing president. The result of the unrest was a re-run of the presidential election sweeping Mr Yushchenko to victory in early 2005. Yulia Tymoshenko, his close ally became prime minister. However their alliance soon fell apart and the President sacked the Tymoshenko govenment in September 2005.
In March 2006 Yanukovich´s party won the new parliamentary elections and he eventually took office in August. He has since built a majority in the Parliament. Amid concerns that an increased majority would allow Mr Yanukovich to reject presidential vetoes, make changes to the constitution, and impeach the president, President Yushchenko dissolved parliament on 2 April and called early elections. Initially Parliament rejected his authority do so, but eventually the President and Prime Minister agreed to hold elections on 30 September.

EU focus on Ukraine
After the EU-Ukraine Summit in September, EU leaders said that Ukraine’s move towards strengthening democracy, the rule of law and the respect of human rights will reinforce political and economic links between the two. If elections are free and fair, it’s the best evidence of the country’s ability to accomplish the goal, they said.

In a July resolution, the Parliament called for the adoption of political reforms, a fight against corruption and a reform of the civil service. It has closely followed political developments in Ukraine. It was among those denouncing irregularities in the 2004 election and a Parliament delegation was in Independence Square in Kiev, which was at the epicenter of the Orange Revolution. It subsequently sent an observation team to monitor the re-run election. The EP was among the first of President Yushchenko’s foreign trips.

An important neighbor
Ukraine, a former constituent republic of the Soviet Union, became an independent country in 1991 and is one of the EU’s most significant immediate neighbors. It has a population of about 47 million and covers a geographical area of 603,700 square kilometer - about 10% greater than metropolitan France. The country borders four EU Member States: Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania. Its capital is Kiev. (