With more than 97 percent of the vote counted in Ukraine's special parliamentary election, the country's leading political parties are maneuvering to be part of the ruling coalition. But a slow ballot returns from areas that support Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych have prompted suspicions of fraud. VOA Correspondent Peter Fedynsky reports from the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv.
A final tally is not expected before Wednesday, but as the count nears 100 percent, the Regions Party of Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych maintains the lead with 34 percent of the total so far. BYuT, or the Bloc of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, has a 30 percent share and President Viktor Yushchenko's Our Ukraine Party trails follows with 14 percent.
An alliance between BYuT and Our Ukraine could return Ms. Tymoshenko to the prime minister's office and revive the so-called Orange coalition between her party and that of President Yushchenko. Both politicians had a bitter falling out less than a year after the Orange Revolution, which followed the disputed presidential election of 2004.
The loser in that election, Viktor Yanukovych, was appointed as prime minister by Mr. Yushchenko. To remain in office, Mr. Yanukovych will need to outmaneuver the Orange team.
His Regions Party's most likely ally are the Socialists, but they have, so far, failed to garner the minimum to enter parliament. Several political leaders have raised suspicions of possible vote fraud to boost the Socialists over the minimum and thereby help Mr. Yanukovych's Regions Party.
On Monday, President Yushchenko ordered an investigation into this allegation. And Tuesday, the Acting Director of Ukraine's Security Service, Valentyn Nalyvaichenko, assured voters the situation is under control.
"We have the means to prevent fraud, for two reasons," says Nalyvaichenko. "We are open, we have received calls from citizens, and are aware of the situation." He says the government can make sure that the results of the election will not be falsified.
Cheating in 2004 led to the Orange Revolution, a protest involving millions of Ukrainians over several weeks of frigid weather in late 2004. The country's Constitutional Court nullified the fraudulent election, which prevented Mr. Yanukovych from becoming president.
Other important players in the coalition stakes could be the Communists and the Lytvyn Bloc of former parliamentary speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn. Both have crossed the three percent threshold.
With the election's uncertain results, Ukraine could face continuing political gridlock. Ukrainian political analysts note that with the next presidential election just two years away, potential candidates are likely to pursue populist measures instead of introducing much needed reforms. The central figures in the current coalition struggle are also known to harbor presidential ambitions.
A poster appearing on the streets of Kyiv offers a satire on what many Ukrainians consider a stagnant situation. It shows Yushchenko, Yanukovych and Tymoshenko as old and gray politicians still running for office many years from now.