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Ukraine Heads For Presidential Runoff

1 November 2004 -- Ukraine's presidential election is headed toward a second-round showdown between Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych and his main opponent Viktor Yushchenko.

The top two candidates emerged with about 40 percent of the vote.

Western observers have reported that the news media and state administration displayed what the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) described as "overwhelming bias" toward the prime minister.

"We found overwhelming bias in favor of the incumbent prime minister in the state media and interference in his favor by the state administration," said Bruce George, the head of the OSCE election observer mission.

George said that observation teams reluctantly concluded that the 2004 presidential election did not meet OSCE, Council of Europe, and a number of other standards for democratic elections.

The United States has said it is disappointed and that the election failed to meet international standards for fair and free elections.

"We note that the OSCE observer mission has said the presidential campaign in 31 October elections did not meet a considerable number of international standards for democratic elections," said U.S. State Department spokesman Adam Ereli. "We are disappointed in this. And we share the OSCE's assessment that this election, quote, 'constitutes a step backward,' unquote from Ukraine's 2002 elections."

The two rivals will now face a 21 November showdown.