The Ukrainian ultranationalist Svoboda Party has made unprecedented gains in the country’s parliamentary elections, where it garnered 12 percent of the vote.
Svoboda – or Freedom Party – has gained a reputation as an anti-Semitic movement due to anti-Jewish statements by its leaders.
Sunday’s vote means the party can now control a faction in parliament for the first time, according to exit polls. The party won less than one percent of the vote in the last election in 2007.
Party leader Oleg Tyagnibok has called in the past for purges of the approximately 400,000 Jews living in Ukraine, as well as other minorities. The party has held several protest rallies against the presence of Jews in Uman, in the center of the country.
Exit polls showed the governing party of President Viktor F. Yanukovich in the lead with 27.6 percent to 32 percent, followed by Tymoshenko’s 24 percent. Svoboda appeared to be fourth largest, after a party led by a former boxing champion, Vitali Klitschko.
Earlier this month, Svoboda signed a cooperation agreement with Yulia Tymoshenko’s Fatherland party, which was second strongest in the elections.
The agreement between Svoboda and Tymoshenko’s party drew a critical statement over the weekend from Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman. “Anti-Semitic insults by Svoboda have caused outrage on a number of occasions both in Ukraine and in Israel,” Liberman said. “The expression of such views reminds of the darkest pages in the history of the last century that has led humanity to the tragedy of the World War II.”