Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych’s party and its allies appear poised to secure a parliamentary majority in elections that have been condemned as flawed by outside observers.
Nearly complete results from the October 28 voting showed the Party of Regions leading with more than 32 percent.
Projections say that with results from voting in single-mandate precincts, and expected support from allies such as the Communist Party, the Party of Regions appears likely to lead a majority in the 450-seat Verkhovna Rada.
Half of the Rada's seats are filled from party lists, the other half from single-mandate constituencies.
The partial results show the Fatherland bloc of jailed opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko in second place, with around 24 percent.
The Communist Party was in third with about 14 percent, followed by the UDAR party of boxing champion Vitaly Klichko at around 13 percent, and the nationalist Freedom party at around 9 percent.
In a written statement, Tymoshenko denounced the elections as “falsified from start to finish.”
Tymoshenko has also announced a hunger strike in protest of the polls, which were Ukraine’s first national vote since President Yanukovych defeated Tymoshenko in the 2010 presidential election.
Last year, Tymosheko was sentenced to seven years in prison on "abuse of office" charges from her term as prime minister, in a case that the European Union and United States have denounced as a politically motivated abuse of the justice system.
As the results of the election began to emerge, the United States and foreign observers from the OSCE cited shortcomings in the fairness of the campaign and voting, calling the elections a backward step for Ukrainian democracy.
Flaws In The Poll
Speaking while on a visit to Bosnia-Herzegovina on October 30, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called Ukraine's election "a step backwards" and urged the country's leadership to curb what she called "the backward slide."
Earleir, U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner had said flaws in the poll included the use of government resources to help ruling party candidates, the hampering of media access for opposition candidates, and the harassment of opposition candidates.
Toner said Washington was “troubled by allegations of fraud and falsification in the voting process and tabulation.”
The U.S. spokesman reiterated U.S. concerns that the "politically motivated convictions of opposition leaders, including former Prime Minister Tymoshenko, prevented them from standing in these elections.”
Earlier on October 29 at a press conference in Kyiv, Walburga Habsburg Douglas, the head of the OSCE monitoring mission, said the conduct of the vote had dealt a severe setback to Ukraine's democratic gains.
"Considering the abuse of power and the excessive role of money in this election, democratic progress appears to have reversed in Ukraine," she told reporters.
The European Union said it intended to watch postelection events in Ukraine closely.
In a joint written statement, EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton and the EU commissioner for enlargement, Stefan Fuele, noted the OSCE’s findings, which they said presented a "mixed picture with several shortcomings.”
The statement warned that the EU’s final assessment of the elections will “depend on the post-electoral developments,” including the tabulation of results and following up on possible electoral complaints.
In a reference to the Tymoshenko case, the statement also said the EU regretted that “the consequences of trials that did not respect international standards have prevented opposition representatives from standing."
The EU suspended the signing of agreements on political association and free trade with Ukraine due to concerns over Tymoshenko's conviction.
With reporting from AFP, Reuters and ITAR-TASS