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Exit Poll: Ukrainian Ruling Party Leads Local Elections

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and Azerbaijani President Ilkham Aliyev, left, during a welcoming ceremony in Kiev, Ukraine, 28 Oct 2010.

An early exit poll in Ukraine shows President Viktor Yanukovych's ruling party with a commanding lead in Sunday's local elections, widely seen as a key test of the president's popularity since his election last year.

The poll, conducted by the GFK-Ukraine Group, shows the president's Party of Regions with 36 percent of the vote. The party of failed 2009 presidential candidate Yulia Tymoshenko was running a distant second, with 13 percent.

Tymoshenko's bloc has denounced the vote, claiming widespread irregularities in the elections, which had voters choose mayors as well as local and regional assembly members.

The main international monitoring mission, the Organization for Security and cooperation in Europe was to announce its evaluation later Monday.

The vote was the first since the pro-Russian Mr.Yanukovych was elected in February.

The exit poll covered nearly 44,000 voters. Authorities say preliminary vote counting is not expected to be completed for several days.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.