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Exit polls predict Ukraine runoff
Viktor Yanukovich leads in presidential poll but unlikely to avoid second round clash.
Last Modified: 17 Jan 2010 19:49 GMT
Viktor Yanukovich won the presidential election in 2004, but lost power to the Orange Revolution [AFP]

Voting has ended in Ukraine's presidential election, with exit polls predicting a small election lead for Viktor Yanukovich, five years after the Orange Revolution removed him from power.

Voting closed at 1800GMT on Sunday, with early reports suggesting Yanukovich has not achieved a clear enough lead to avoid a second round runoff against his main challenger, Yulia Tymoshenko.

If confirmed, Yanukovich will face Tymoshenko, the current prime minister, in a February 7 runoff vote.

Exit poll results are in stark contrast to the last presidential election held in late 2004, which led to the so-called Orange Revolution.

Post-election protests five years ago swept Viktor Yushchenko to power and created hopes of a new era of prosperity and European integration for the country of 46 million people bridging the EU and Russia.

But amid grave public disillusionment over five years of botched reform and political stalemate, Yushchenko appears set to drop out of the election race in the first round.

Disillusioned voters

Hours before voting stopped, Al Jazeera's Neave Barker, reporting from Kiev, said voters had low faith in the fairness of the election.

"A recent poll suggested that only five per cent of the population believe this election will be free and fair and I don't think the front runners have done much to inspire confidence over the last week of campaigning.

"The two leaders, Yanukovich and prime minister Tymoshenko, have accused each other of planning to rig the election. 

"But that said, the same poll indicated that the voter turnout could be as high as 75 per cent. While people may be disillusioned with the political elite, they're certainly not apathetic."

Trading insults

After a campaign that saw the main protagonists trade insults, all the main candidates spent the final hours of campaigning with appearances on Ukrainian political talk shows.

Yanukovich also held a glitzy rally in central Kiev attended by top Ukrainian pop stars.

Tymoshenko, her voice hoarse from weeks of campaigning, issued a stern warning against the perils of voting for Yanukovich, saying the country risked becoming "internationally isolated, ruled by oligarch clans and criminals".

Yanukovich replied: "What have the Orange leaders promised and not done over the last five years? They deceived the people."

Source:
Agencies
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