Members of a local electoral commission count votes at a polling station following the second round of a presidential election in Lviv, Ukraine April 21, 2019. (Mykola Tys/REUTERS)

Canadian short-term election observers arrive in Ukraine

Over two hundred Canadian short-term election observers are arriving in Ukraine this week ahead of the country’s parliamentary elections on July 21, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland announced Thursday.

Led by the head of Canada’s election observation mission in Ukraine, former Liberal foreign affairs minister Lloyd Axworthy, the delegation will monitor the electoral process in various regions in Ukraine on election day, including the opening of polling stations, voting, counting of ballots and tabulation of results.

“These short-term observers will join other, long-term observers who have been working with local governments and civil society organizations to examine issues ranging from the participation of women in the electoral process to foreign interference and disinformation,” Freeland said in a statement.

“The ability to participate in free and fair democratic elections is a fundamental democratic right. Canada is proud to support the people of Ukraine in exercising that right.”

Ukraine’s newly elected President Volodymyr Zelenskiy dissolved the parliament and called snap elections minutes after being sworn in on May 20.

Ukraine’s President-elect Volodymyr Zelenskiy takes the oath during his inauguration ceremony in the parliament hall in Kiev, Ukraine May 20, 2019. (Vladyslav Musiienko/Ukrainian Governmental Press Service/Handout via REUTERS)

The 41-year-old comedian and entrepreneur-turned-politician who won by landslide in April hopes that Ukrainian voters will hand his party, Servant of the People, the first majority government since Ukraine became independent from the Soviet Union in 1991.

Polls show Servant of the People, named after a popular satirical TV series where Zelenskiy played an earnest history teacher who becomes president of Ukraine, is on track to win between 41-49 percent of the vote, well ahead of the other parties.

Second in the opinion polls, with about 10 per cent, is the most pro-Russian of the parties, Opposition Platform – For Life , which is set to pick up most of its votes in Ukraine’s Russian-speaking eastern regions.

The anti-establishment party Holos (The Voice), founded by Svyatoslav Vakarchuk, the lead singer of one of Ukraine’s most popular bands, is polling between 6-8 per cent and could become one of Zelenskiy’s coalition partners.

The parties of Ukraine’s former political heavyweights, former president Petro Poroshenko who was trounced by Zelenskiy in April, and former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, are struggling to get over the 5-per-cent threshold needed to enter parliament.

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