Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych's party looks set to retain power, according to preliminary election results. Visiting European observers report ballot tampering, bribery, multiple votes and assaults on monitors.
With nearly 60 percent of votes from Sunday's parliamentary election counted, Yanukovych's Regions party had won about 35 percent, Ukraine's election commission announced late on Monday. It said his coalition allies the Communists had won nearly 15 percent.
The commission said the opposition Fatherland party, headed by jailed former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko had received 22 percent of the vote. The Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reform, a party led by the boxing champion Vitali Klitschko, was estimated to have garnered about 13 percent, and the nationalist Freedom party 8.6 per cent.
'Abuse of power'
Observers of Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe in Kyev were sceptical about the poll, saying "it constituted a step backwards compared with recent elections."
The OSCE also found that in ballot counting the "calculation was assessed negatively, as it lacked transparency."
"Considering the abuse of power, and the excessive role of money in this election, democratic progress appears to have reversed in Ukraine," OSCE special coordinator Walburga Habsburg Douglas said.
"One should not have to visit a prison to hear from leading political figures in the country," she said, referring to Tymoshenko.
Seat allocations awaited
The preliminary results released by the commission covered 225 posts in the 450-seat legislature which are determined proportionally.
The remaining seats are to be allocated within individual districts.
According to the elections commission, the Regions party is on track to obtain about 110 to 115 seats in those individual electorates, with the strongest support in the country's Russian-speaking eastern and southern provinces.
The western and northern provinces, as well as the capital, Kyiv, rejected Regions but no single opposition party dominated in popularity, according to the partial counts.
If the early results are borne out by the final declarations, the Regions party and the Communists will rule, but will also need the support of independent parliament members, observers said.
mkg/ipj (AFP, Reuters, dpa, AP)