Ukraine’s Orange Revolution team turns attention to coalition talks

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) – Parties that once joined forces to carry out Ukraine’s Orange Revolution were left jockeying for power on Monday as early results showed their one-time nemesis in the lead, a stinging rebuke to President Viktor Yushchenko’s West-leaning administration.

Official vote tallies were coming in slowly, but initial returns showed the pro-Russia party led by Viktor Yanukovych taking the largest number of votes, followed by the president’s former ally, Yulia Tymoshenko. Yushchenko’s party was a distant third.

Yanukovych, whose ballot-stuffing attempt to win the 2004 presidency triggered the Orange Revolution, declared his Party of the Regions victorious.

“The Party of the Regions has won a convincing victory,” Yanukovych said. “We are ready to undertake responsibility for forming the Cabinet and we are calling on everyone to join us.”

With just over 30 percent of the ballots counted, the Central Election Commission put Yanukovych’s party ahead with about 26.4 percent. The bloc loyal to Tymoshenko had 23.8 percent and Yushchenko’s party had 16.6 percent.

Yanukovych’s party, which has pledged to make Russian a second state language, drop plans to join NATO and restore frayed ties with Moscow, was dominating in the Russian-speaking east and south.

Tymoshenko’s bloc, which was named after her and has accused the government of betraying the Orange Revolution aims of justice and separation of business from power, led in the Ukrainian-speaking west and center. Election officials said the count would stretch into Tuesday due to the 45 parties on the ballot. About 25 million Ukrainians cast ballots, putting turnout at 67 percent.

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