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Clean Win For Ruling Party In Ukraine Elections? Observers Say No



KIEV - The Russia-friendly Party of Regions of incumbent president Viktor Yanukovych was claiming victory Monday in the closely watched Ukraine parliamentary elections. Together with its Communist party allies, the Regions party says it will have a simple majority in the 450-seat Ukraine parliament after Sunday's vote.

The Kiev Post reported Monday that foreign observers sent to monitor the elections in the Ukraine complained that the vote was “an apparent reversal in Ukraine’s democratic progress.” The official observers said that media had been controlled by the incumbent government, and that some parties in the election had no representation on election commissions, and that there was a general lack of transparency. The Post dubbed it an “oligarchization” of the vote.

Top opposition leader, Yulia Tymoshenko, Ukraine's former prime minister, has had to follow the vote from in prison, sentenced last year to seven years for “abuse of power.”

Of the five main political parties battling for vote, there was also the Udar or Punch party of Vitali Klitschko, a former heavyweight boxing champion; and Svoboda, a nationalist party which in the past was known for its racist and anti-semitic bent. The parties won respectively about 13%, and 8 % of the vote, according to the BBC, guaranteeing even Svoboda at least one seat in parliament. Timoshynko’s party acknowledged the victory of the president’s party.

Still, foreign observers noted widespread problems and corruption. A Die Zeitreporter in Irpin, a university town north of Kiev, witnessed voters being given envelopes after voting, and interviewed a man who said that five extra voters were registered to his home.

In an interview with Die Zeitbefore the election,Klitschko said that Ukraine was seen as a third-world nation, with six million Ukrainians working abroad, and was almost at the bottom of the global transparency index. According to Klitschko, half of Ukrainians see no future in their homeland and 70 % of school leavers want to emigrate. “These are facts,” he told Die Zeit. Klitschko added that students in Kiev were being paid 15 euros to vote for the president’s party.

After the election, monitors denounced a lack of transparency, and clear signs of corruption. “Ukraine’s streak of four relatively democratic national elections, from 2004 to 2012, has come to an end with the Oct. 28 parliamentary vote,” the Kiev Post concluded.

Zombies encourage young people not to be passive in the election

The runup to the election was colorful. The Internews website hired zombies to go around Kiev as a gag to encourage young people to vote. Turkish newspaper Hurriyet, reporting from Kiev, listed among the candidates, besides Klitschko, “an extravagantly dressed pop diva, a retired football star, the son of a famous actor, and an opposition leader suspiciously cozy with the government.” The football star was Andrij Shevchenko, former striker for AC Milan, a candidate for Ukraine Forward, a party “widely believed to be supported by the ruling party and aimed at siphoning off opposition votes,” according to Hurriyet.

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In Northern Kenya, Where Climate Change Is Measured In Starving Children

The worst drought in 40 years, which has deepened from the effects of climate change, is hitting the young the hardest around the Horn of Africa. A close-up look at the victims, and attempts to save lives and limit lasting effects on an already fragile region in Kenya.

Photo of five mothers holding their malnourished children

At feeding time, nurses and aides encourage mothers to socialize their children and stimulate them to eat.

Georgina Gustin

KAKUMA — The words "Stabilization Ward" are painted in uneven black letters above the entrance, but everyone in this massive refugee camp in Kakuma, Kenya, calls it ya maziwa: The place of milk.

Rescue workers and doctors, mothers and fathers, have carried hundreds of starving children through the doors of this one-room hospital wing, which is sometimes so crowded that babies and toddlers have to share beds. A pediatric unit is only a few steps away, but malnourished children don’t go there. They need special care, and even that doesn’t always save them.

In an office of the International Rescue Committee nearby, Vincent Opinya sits behind a desk with figures on dry-erase boards and a map of the camp on the walls around him. “We’ve lost 45 children this year due to malnutrition,” he says, juggling emergencies, phone calls, and texts. “We’re seeing a significant increase in malnutrition cases as a result of the drought — the worst we’ve faced in 40 years.”

From January to June, the ward experienced an 800 percent rise in admissions of children under 5 who needed treatment for malnourishment — a surge that aid groups blame mostly on a climate change-fueled drought that has turned the region into a parched barren.

Opinya, the nutrition manager for the IRC here, has had to rattle off these statistics many times, but the reality of the numbers is starting to crack his professional armor. “It’s a very sad situation,” he says, wearily. And he believes it will only get worse. A third year of drought is likely on the way.

More children may die. But millions will survive malnutrition and hunger only to live through a compromised future, researchers say. The longer-term health effects of this drought — weakened immune systems, developmental problems — will persist for a generation or more, with consequences that will cascade into communities and societies for decades.

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