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Line of people waiting to vote in Kyiv on March 26 (Ukrinform)
March 26, 2006 -- Early reports suggest voter turnout has been high in Ukraine's first parliamentary elections since the pro-Western Orange Revolution little more than a year ago. Around 40 percent of the electorate had voted by mid-afternoon, according to the Central Election Commission.
President Viktor Yushchenko, who wore a bright orange tie as he cast his vote, hailed what he called Ukraine's "first fair democratic" election. He described it as a choice between the past and the future.
"Tomorrow [March 27] we will start consultations with the political forces that formed the previous administration and the same forces that won the Orange Revolution," he said. "We will begin talks tomorrow morning and this may give us an opportunity to develop a political strategy in the negotiating process. The early message is that we are looking to lay the foundation for the negotiations."
But the last preelection opinion polls, released two weeks ago, suggest Viktor Yanukovych's pro-Russian Party of Regions will emerge as the single biggest party in parliament, with around 30 percent of the vote.
Yanukovych is the man Yushchenko defeated in the bitterly contested presidential election in late 2004. But it is thought unlikely that his party will be able to form a majority.
Enthusiasm for the Orange Revolution and Yushchenko has waned as the economy has slumped and government infighting has slowed reform.
Forty-five parties and blocs are competing in today's vote, but only about six are expected to make it over the 3 percent barrier.
(compiled from agency reports)
(Click on the icon to view images of today's voting prepared by RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service with captions in Ukrainian. To follow the Ukrainian Service's coverage, click here
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