Ukraine's Orange Revolution allies are likely to win parliamentary elections. Near-final results show that they will be able to form a strong coalition to unseat Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych.
With less than 1 percent of precincts uncounted early Wednesday, it was unclear whether the smaller parties likely to side with Yanukovych's force would reach the threshold to tip the balance away from President Viktor Yushchenko and Yulia Tymoshenko, his partner in the 2004 upheaval.
Yanukovych's Party of Regions had 34.21 percent of the vote, followed by Tymoshenko's bloc with 30.83 percent. The party loyal to Yushchenko trailed with 14.22 percent.
The Socialists had 2.87 percent - and the figure was sliding downward as the hours passed. Should the Socialist fail to pass the 3 percent threshold to enter parliament, the Orange forces would have a combined 226 seats, enough to form a government.
But fraud suspicions persisted, stoking fears this ex-Soviet republic might be rent by a repeat of the falsifications that sparked the 2004 mass protests.
Backers hope a coalition by the party loyal to Yushchenko and Tymoshenko would hasten reform and integration with the West, and end the tug-of-war between president and premier that prompted Yushchenko to call the early vote.
Tymoshenko, who has already claimed victory and all but declared herself prime minister, accused Yanukovych's party of rigging results to favor the party and its Socialist and Communist allies in nine southern and eastern districts where tallies were slow to come in.
"Despite huge attempts at falsification and despite the fact we practically have to fight with our hands for the results, we are confident in victory of the democratic coalition," she told reporters.
Yanukovych, who claimed victory based on his lead and promised he would form the governing coalition, has dismissed the allegations.
The vote was shadowed by memories of flawed balloting - and in some cases outright vote-rigging - in the 2004 election that sparked the Orange Revolution. When Yanukovych was initially declared the winner, hundreds of thousands of people poured into the streets of Kiev claiming fraud, and Yushchenko won a new vote after a court threw out the initial results.
Given their history of friction, there was skepticism that an alliance between Yushchenko and Tymoshenko would last long.
Tymoshenko has indicated she will run for president in 2009 and Yushchenko is believed to be eyeing a second term, creating the potential for discord.
"Two leaders aiming for the same presidential seat make the Orange coalition quite unstable," political analyst Mykhailo Pohrebinsky said.
During the Orange Revolution, Yushchenko and Tymoshenko inspired millions with hopes of reform, and swore loyalty to each other and their Orange team. But seven months after Yushchenko was elected president, he fired Tymoshenko as premier amid mutual accusations of corruption.
Last year, the Orange parties passed up a chance to resurrect their alliance when they bickered for weeks over Cabinet posts following the March 2006 vote, prompting the Socialists to defect to Yanukovych's camp, giving him the premiership.
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