Commodities: Ukraine Holds Local Elections in Test of Support for President

By Laura Mills and James Marson 
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Ukrainians voted Sunday in local elections that will test support for the country’s pro-Western President Petro Poroshenko, who is under pressure over a deep economic contraction and perceived lack of progress fighting corruption.

Voters are selecting mayors and representatives to municipal councils across Ukraine apart from eastern regions controlled by Russian-backed separatists, who have been fighting with government forces for more than a year.

Mr. Poroshenko’s ruling party was leading in polls, marginally ahead of other parties from his governing coalition. But surveys showed his support has slipped in recent months. The economy is forecast to contract 11.5% this year, and many Ukrainians are disappointed with the lack of progress fighting graft since a popular revolution in February 2014.

Nearly 40% of voters remained undecided on how to cast their ballot, according to a survey in mid-October by the Democratic Initiatives Foundation.

A strong showing for Mr. Poroshenko would help him consolidate power amid plans to amend the constitution to hand more authority to local governments. Ukraine’s parliament has given preliminary approval to the measures, which are likely to come up for final approval later this year.

But polls show populist forces of various stripes have gained in recent months. The Fatherland party, led by firebrand former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, has remained part of the ruling coalition but has built a campaign lobbying against many of the government’s austerity measures. Powerful industrial tycoons who were allied with ousted, pro-Russian former President Viktor Yanukovych have spread their support among a number of parties that have gained ground, particularly in their traditional strongholds in the east.

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