updated 10/2/2007 2:20:32 PM ET 2007-10-02T18:20:32

Final tallies from a tight weekend election trickled in Tuesday, and fears grew that Ukraine could again face a battle over voting fraud similar to one that marred the 2004 presidential balloting.

The reunited parties of the Orange Revolution were looking to form a governing majority, but with the party of Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych leading in the count, attention turned to the smaller political parties, such as the Socialists, which are likely to ally themselves with his bloc.

That would block efforts by President Viktor Yushchenko and the charismatic opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko to hammer together a ruling majority and could result in a replay of the political tug-of-war that Yushchenko wanted to end by agreeing to the early parliamentary election.

With just over 96 percent of the ballots counted, Yanukovych's Party of Regions led with 34.1 percent if the vote. Tymoshenko's bloc followed with 30.9 percent and Yushchenko's party trailed with 14.3 percent.

Both the former Orange bloc and Yanukovych have claimed victory.

Several political leaders complained about the slow count. Tallies from some Russian-speaking eastern and southern regions, where Yanukovych traditionally draws support, had not come in as of Tuesday afternoon, prompting some to suspect fraud.

11 voting districts cited
Senior Tymoshenko aide Mykola Tomenko alleged that attempts were under way to rig the vote in favor of the Socialist party and allow it to get into parliament — a move likely to benefit Yanukovych. Tomenko claimed election commissions in 11 districts were falsifying results.

"The delay is not only a cynical attempt to break the law, but a desire to completely change election results," he said.

Yushchenko on Monday ordered an investigation into the delays, warning that "those forces who aspire to get into parliament with the help of machinations" will be punished.

Flawed balloting — and even outright rigging — that gave the initial 2004 presidential election to Yanukovych prompted hundreds of thousands of people to pour into the streets of Kiev that year. Ultimately, a court ordered a new vote, which was won by Yushchenko.

A handful of parliament's 450 seats could go to three minor parties that performed better than expected. Two could join Yanukovych's party, although one of them, the Socialists, was on the brink of a 3 percent threshold to enter parliament.

The third party, whose affiliation is less clear, could emerge as a kingmaker by joining either an Orange alliance or Yanukovych in a fragile coalition.

Premier up for grabs
Another important issue is that Yushchenko and Tymoshenko — heroes of the popular protests that overturned the flawed 2004 presidential election — have long been estranged. There is no guarantee they could patch up their differences even with a combined majority.

Any party or coalition requires an absolute majority of at least 226 seats to govern. The two Orange parties have already agreed on how to divide up Cabinet positions — a deal that would make Tymoshenko premier.

Yanukovych said Monday the Orange parties were too quick to claim victory and that the election gave him "carte blanche" to stay at the helm. He added that he was ready to share some power with other parties.

Yanukovych has hinted his party could protest against a fraudulent vote — a potential role reversal from 2004. But the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe gave a largely favorable assessment of Sunday's vote.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,

Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments