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Exit Polls Show Ukraine Divided For, Against Poroshenko Rule

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and his wife, Marina, vote in local elections ini Kyiv on October 25.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and his wife, Marina, vote in local elections ini Kyiv on October 25.

Four exit polls from Ukraine's local elections released on October 26 indicated the government of President Petro Poroshenko would retain its dominant position in the west and center of the country.

But in the south and east, voters favored the Opposition Bloc, formed from the remnants of the party of the former pro-Russia President Viktor Yanukovych who was overthrown in early 2014 after months of street protests.

Poroshenko hailed the exit polls as showing no single party did well enough to upset his government and said it was a victory over Russian attempts to control the country.

Moscow's attempts "to create a pro-Russian fifth column in Ukraine [are] in shambles," he said. "With these elections, the Ukrainian people, the Ukrainian society, has crossed a rubicon that rules out our return to the past."

The Central Election Committee said it had received data from only 30 percent of the vote by the morning of October 26, reflecting the challenge of calculating the results of elections for more than 10,700 local councils as well as mayors.

More than 130 parties fielded candidates. Complete results were expected November 4.

Elections were held nationwide on October 25, except for parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of eastern Ukraine controlled by Russia-backed separatists.

In eastern areas recaptured by government forces, former separatists ran for office as candidates from the Opposition Bloc.

Poroshenko's party and others in his coalition had hoped to expand their influence through the local elections, but this proved not so easy to do.

"The disposition of forces shows that the country is divided," political analyst Vladimir Fesenko said.

The elections also were seen as a test of strength for oligarchs accustomed to holding sway in their own regions.

In Mariupol, a major port and steel city on the Sea of Azov, voting was scrapped because of tensions over the influence of Rinat Akhmetov, Ukraine's richest man whose industrial holdings are key to the city's economy.

The Mariupol election commission refused to accept ballots printed by a company owned by Akhmetov, who supports the Opposition Bloc.

Political conflicts also led to the postponement of elections in the eastern cities of Krasnoarmiisk and Svatovo. No date has been set for holding those elections.

The Associated Press reported that the winner of the mayoral race in Kyiv and several other big cities will be decided only in a second round on November 15 because none of the candidates got more than 50 percent of the vote.

In Kyiv, the capital, AP said the exit polls showed the incumbent mayor, former heavyweight boxing champion Vitali Klitschko, with a strong lead.

In Dnipropetrovsk, another major industrial city, AP said the party associated with local tycoon Ihor Kolomoysky was on track to dominate the city council. His mayoral candidate faced a second round.

With reporting by AP, TASS, and AFP
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