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Yanukovych leads Ukraine election with nearly all ballots counted

RIA Novosti


KIEV, January 18 (RIA Novosti) - Opposition Party of Regions leader Viktor Yanukovych has a more than 10% lead over his closest rival Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko in Ukraine's Sunday presidential election with 99.5% of the ballots counted.

The ex-Soviet state's Central Election Commission said Yanukovych is garnering 35.39% of the vote, and Tymoshenko 25%.

They are followed by ex-National Bank head Serhiy Tyhypko with 13.05%, ex-parliament speaker Arseniy Yatsenyuk with 6.95% and incumbent President Viktor Yushchenko with 5.46%.

A total of 2.2% of voters voted against all. A runoff is scheduled for February 7 as none of the candidates has gained 50% plus one vote needed to win the elections in the first round.

Tymoshenko's camp has accused Yanukovych of stealing 3% of the premier's votes. Yanukovych, 59, is enjoying support of mainly Russian-speaking eastern regions. Tymoshenko, 49, a leader of the "orange revolution" protests amid election fraud accusations in 2004 against Yanukovych, is popular in the country's west.

The joint observer mission from some international organizations said the first round of the Ukrainian election met the majority of OSCE and Council of Europe voting standards. Western monitors pointed to "significant progress" against the 2004 polls, and said political rights and freedom had not been violated.

The 2004 mass street protests known as the "orange revolution" brought current President Viktor Yushchenko to power amid election fraud accusations against Yanukovych.

Experts predict a tight race with unpredictable results between Tymoshenko and Yanukovych when they face each other in the runoff vote.