The ruling party of President Viktor F. Yanukovich declared victory in Ukraine’s parliamentary elections on Sunday but based on preliminary exit polls that also showed opposition groups appear to have performed strongly.
The Fatherland party, led by jailed former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, surprised observers by coming in second.
The precise makeup of the Parliament, called the Verkhovna Rada, will not be known for several weeks because half of the 450 seats will be filled by candidates who did not have to declare a party affiliation ahead of Sunday’s balloting.
But preliminary surveys of voters by five separate research and news media organizations showed Mr. Yanukovich’s Party of Regions in the lead with 27.6 percent to 32 percent of the vote, followed by the Fatherland party of Yulia V. Tymoshenko, the jailed former prime minister, with about 24 percent. A party led by the boxing champion Vitali Klitschko was third with about 14 percent.
“With this vote our people have shown that they understand what a difficult economic situation the country was in, and that our party has taken the full responsibility over the situation,” Prime Minister Mykola Azarov declared at a news conference, as hundreds of supporters gathered for a victory party on a square in central Kiev, waving blue and yellow flags.
Western monitoring organisations will deliver their reports on the ballot in the coming days.
A record number of observers were registered to monitor the election.
It is believed the government will have enough support from smaller parties and independents to hold onto its majority in parliament.