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Pro-West blocs ‘win’ Ukraine vote

The pro-Western parties of Orange Revolution leaders Viktor Yushchenko and Yulia Tymoshenko appear to have won a slim majority in Ukraine’s election. 

Exit polls suggest their combined vote gives them a slender advantage over Russian-leaning PM Viktor Yanukovych. He took 35.5% of the vote, with Yulia Tymoshenko’s bloc second on 31.5%, exit polls suggested. Yushchenko, the president, won just 13.5%, but is now expected to enter coalition talks with Tymoshenko. The BBC’s Helen Fawkes in Kiev says the coalition horse-trading after last year’s parliamentary elections took months and plunged Ukraine into political turmoil which helped trigger the latest snap poll. Ahead of the official result on Monday, Yanukovych refused to concede defeat for his Party of the Regions.

Power struggle
The snap election - the third national poll in three years - was called in an attempt to resolve a long-running power struggle between Yushchenko and Yanukovych, who favors closer ties with Moscow. Yushchenko and Ms Tymoshenko struck a last-minute deal before the poll to form a coalition in parliament, under which the president would make Tymoshenko his prime minister. Celebrating the exit poll results, Tymoshenko, sporting her trademark braid, told reporters: “I believe no one can diminish or deny the victory Ukraine has scored. Everything will work out. In a matter of weeks we will hold our first government news conference.” But Yanukovych refused to yield ground. “As winners of this election - and I am certain we have won with a strong result - we have the right to form a coalition,” he said.

Infighting
Yanukovych could attempt to form a coalition with his allies in the Communist Party of Ukraine, which won 5.1% of votes, and with ex-parliament speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn’s party, which won 3.7%, according to exit polls. But Yushchenko and Ms Tymoshenko together would still have enough of seats to secure at least 226 seats - a wafer-thin majority in the 450-seat parliament, the exit polls suggest. The pair led the 2004 pro-democracy street protests - dubbed the Orange Revolution - that swept them both to power. But the relationship between Yushchenko’s party, Our Ukraine - People’s Self Defence, and the Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc has been fraught over the past three years. The president made Tymoshenko his prime minister in 2004, but their government was brought down by infighting. Yushchenko and Yanukovych were rivals in the presidential elections of 2004. Yanukovych won the initial poll, but the result was annulled over claims of mass vote rigging. Orange-clad campaigners won a peaceful campaign for fresh elections and Yushchenko triumphed in the re-run. But Yanukovych made a comeback as prime minister in March 2006 and the two enemies grudgingly shared power.


(BBJ 01.x.07)

 
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