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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Reformers Win Slim Ukraine Victory

ReutersFormer Ukrainian Prime Minister Viktor Yushchenko holding up a falsified ballot at a news conference in Kiev on Monday.
KIEV -- Reformers secured a slim victory over the Communist Party in Ukraine's parliamentary elections, according to results Monday -- but faced a formidable challenge from a pro-presidential movement whose surprising showing fueled allegations of fraud.

Voters sick of Ukraine's status quo hailed the win by the party of pro-Western former Prime Minister Viktor Yushchenko. But the close race highlighted deep divisions over Ukraine's direction.

International observers said the campaign clearly favored federal and local authorities, and reports of voting violations were rampant.

The vote tested President Leonid Kuchma's popularity after eight years of rule. The campaign of the pro-Kuchma party For United Ukraine, created just a few months ago, was seen as a rehearsal for him or a hand-picked successor in 2004 presidential elections.

With 79.5 percent of the vote counted by Monday evening, Yushchenko's Our Ukraine had 22.83 percent, the Communist Party had 20.22 percent, and For United Ukraine had 12.69 percent, according to the election commission.

The opposition Socialist Party of former parliament Speaker Oleksandr Moroz had 7.19 percent, and the fiercely anti-Kuchma party of former Deputy Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko had 6.89 percent.

However, the percentages won by the parties account for only half of the 450 seats in the Verkhovna Rada. The other 225 legislators are elected directly in local races, where candidates from the pro-presidential party dominated.

Monday evening's results indicated Yushchenko and the pro-presidential party could have about 110 seats each, with the Communists at about 65. That would leave no one with a clear majority, meaning much would depend on what alliances are formed.

Kuchma praised the election results and insisted the vote was conducted democratically. "Ukraine's choice ... comes down to simple values clear to everyone: independence, stability, prosperity," he said in a statement Monday.

"I am for cooperation with all constructive powers that are ready to share responsibility for the country's future and are able to unite in a stable parliamentary majority," he said.

Yushchenko, speaking to reporters Monday, questioned the official results and accused the authorities of "cynical behavior," but expressed no doubt that his party would emerge the winner.

Andreas Gross, vice president of the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly, slammed the authorities for pressuring election workers. He said this could have affected the outcome, though it was unclear by how much.

Election commission chairman Mykhailo Riabets cited minor voting irregularities that he insisted would not affect the overall results.

Reflecting a deep disillusionment with post-Soviet politics, more than 1 million voters cast ballots marked "against everyone."