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"Orange" parties hope to counter PM's lead in Ukraine polls

RIA Novosti

02/10/2007 10:29 KIEV, October 2 (RIA Novosti) - The party led by Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych is leading the parliamentary polls in Ukraine, but reunited "orange" forces are hoping they will have enough votes to form a ruling majority.

With 94% of votes counted after the early elections Sunday, the Party of Regions is leading with 34.2%. It is closely followed by the opposition Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc, which scored 30.8%.

The pro-presidential Our Ukraine-People's Self-Defense is in third place with 14.3% of the vote. Other parties that overcame the 3% threshold to the Supreme Rada include the Communists (5.4%) and former parliamentary speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn's bloc (3.9%).

President Viktor Yushchenko and Tymoshenko declared themselves winners. They pledged to rejoin forces last week despite differences and side-swapping in the years after the 2004 "orange revolution," which swept pro-Western Yushchenko to power toppling Yanukovych then backed by Russia.

Tymoshenko is seeking to regain the premiership, which she lost in 2005 after eight months in the post. The "orange" forces agreed to divide Cabinet posts on a 50-50 basis. The party that wins more votes would nominate a prime minister, the other would propose a speaker.

But Yanukovych also claimed victory as he briefly appeared before thousands of supporters at Kiev's central Independence Square, the venue of mass protests against rigged presidential elections in 2004: "We won and I am positive we will form a government of national unity again."

The Communists are likely to unite with the Party of Regions again. The Socialist Party, also within Yanukovych's ruling coalition, so far scored 2.9% of the vote. The Lytvyn bloc's affiliation is not clear. A majority of at least 226 seats in the 450-seat legislature is required to form a governing coalition.

The president dismissed the Supreme Rada in April and called snap elections, accusing Yanukovych of "usurping power." The longtime political foes agreed on the September 30 vote following months of litigation and street rallies.