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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Left, Independents Lead Ukrainian Poll




KIEV -- Communists claimed victory Monday after elections in Ukraine, but independent candidates threw the complexion of the new parliament into doubt by taking a quarter of the seats, according to preliminary results.


Communist leader Petro Symonenko claimed victory in Sunday's legislative election and an exit poll gave the Communist Party a commanding lead over other parties with 26 percent of the vote.


But Central Electoral Commission chief Mykhailo Ryabets said candidates with no party affiliations won 114 seats in the contest for the 225 single-mandate constituencies returning members to parliament.


Further results, in which 30 parties and blocs competed on a party list for the remaining 225 places in parliament, were delayed until Tuesday morning.


Many of the independent candidates are businessmen and officials who could act as a counterweight to the left's desire to claw back privatization and shelve plans to sell land.


They might also provide essential support for embattled President Leonid Kuchma, who had the last left-dominated parliament mauling his slow-paced reforms.


"It's still very uncertain," said a Western diplomat in the capital, Kiev. "But there are a lot of businessmen doing well [in the election] so I think you can scale down the Communist gains."


"It is taking longer than expected to process the party lists," Ryabets said. "We are only just beginning to get computer data now," he said.


The pro-government People's Democratic Party of Ukraine won 13 seats, the nationalist Rukh Party won eight seats, the pro-government Agrarian Party of Ukraine gained 10 seats while the Socialist and Peasant Party Bloc won seven seats.


Vyacheslav Chornovil, leader of Rukh, blamed Ukraine's kaleidoscope of centrist and moderate right parties for splintering the vote and handing victory to the left.


"Democratic forces did not win this election because they were too divided," said Chornovil, a dissident in Soviet times and a prisoner of the Gulag camps.


But most of Ukraine's 37 million registered voters cast their ballots on material hardships, not ideology. The government owes $3.25 billion in debts to state workers and the elderly in unpaid wages and pensions.


"People are voting against the economic situation in this country," said Leonid Kravchuk, Ukraine's former president and chief of the centrist Social Democratic Party of Ukraine (United).


Valery Khmilko, an analyst at the Kiev Center for Political Studies, said, "Our parliament will be more left-wing, which will make it more difficult to conduct reforms in Ukraine."


Ukraine's debt and share markets were muted on Monday with dealers waiting for concrete results before plunging back in -- the markets have barely stirred in recent weeks over fears of a left-wing election victory.


Electoral observers from the Council of Europe criticized the lack of access to state television for some parties but gave the election a clean bill of health.


"Everything went more or less smoothly, we didn't observe any anomalies," said Alain Chenard, head of the observer team.