10/27/2014 04:02 EDT | Updated 12/27/2014 05:59 EST

Canadian observers upbeat about Ukraine vote despite Poroshenko TV ownership

OTTAWA - Canadian election observers in Ukraine say they are upbeat about the fairness of Sunday's parliamentary election, even though President Petro Poroshenko owns a major television station and has no plans to sell it.

Canada's election observer team in Ukraine echoed their international counterparts in praising the country's democratic progress thus far.

The vote gave a resounding victory to pro-Europe parties — a clear rebuke of attempts by Russia to control Ukraine after annexing its Crimean Peninsula in March, and the ongoing instability caused by Russian-backed separatists in the country's east.

One red flag was raised about Ukraine's future democratic development: its major television stations are mainly owned by rich oligarchs who use the stations to promote their political interests.

Poroshenko himself owns Channel 5, a station he has no intention of shedding from his business portfolio.

The candy billionaire, who received a hero's welcome on Parliament Hill earlier this fall, has announced plans to sell other assets.

"Ukraine's president, Petro Poroshenko, personally owns a news channel — Channel 5 — and has stated that it is one of the few assets he does not intend to divest. Channel 5's ownership has been an ongoing issue of contention during (the) campaign," says a preliminary report by the Canadian mission, which sent 200 observers.

Yaroslav Baran, the spokesman for the Canadian mission, said the Channel 5 question was an election issue, but one the Ukrainian people must sort out on their own.

"Most television stations here are owned by oligarchs, tycoons, business people, and most of them are tied to a political party or a political leader of some variety," he said in an interview from Kyiv on Monday.

It is not up to Canada to pronounce on whether Poroshenko should divest, he added.

"Most television stations will largely be shilling for one candidate or another. But there are different stations shilling for different candidates," said Baran.

"It's not too, too different from the media environment in the United Kingdom or Canada 100 years ago where you had newspapers clearly identified with one candidate or another, and the editorial bias was quite evident."

Thomas Rymer, a spokesman for the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), agreed that media ownership was an issue, "but it's outside of what we're doing."

The OSCE is the leading organization for international election observation as well as a promoter of democracy.

Rymer said it might be best to look at Ukraine's broadcast ownership landscape as a case of the glass being half full.

"What that does lead to is some degree of plurality within in the media system, so there's a significant amount of information available for voters to try to make an informed choice," he said.

"But it is a plurality generated by the ownership of media and by groups with different interests."