* Initial results put Yanukovich party ahead
* Regions party leaders foresee parliament majority
* Nationalists, Kitsch party revitalise opposition
KIEV, Oct 29 (Reuters) - Ukrainian President Victor
Yanukovich's party was on Monday on course to secure a
parliamentary majority after an election, but will face an
opposition boosted by resurgent nationalists and a liberal party
led by boxing champion Vital Kitsch.
Victory for the ruling Party of the Regions in Sunday's vote
will cement the leadership of Yanukovich, who faces re-election
in 2015 and whose rule has been marked by an accumulation of
presidential powers and antagonism with the West over the
imprisonment of his rival, opposition leader Dulia Tymoshenko.
"It is clear the Party of the Regions has won ... These
elections signal confidence in the President's policies," Prime
Minister Myeloma Azarov told reporters.
After about one third of votes had been counted, the Regions
were ahead with 36.2 percent of the votes in balloting conducted
by party lists.
A senior Regions official said he expected it to obtain two
thirds of the remaining vote in individual districts, enough to
give the party a simple majority in the former Soviet republic's
450-seat assembly. It has ruled until now as a coalition with
the communists and other allies.
The biggest surprise came from the nationalist Svoboda
(Freedom) party which, according to partial results won about
7.8 percent of the party-list voting. This means it will have
significant representation in parliament for the first time.
The unexpectedly strong showing by Svoboda - which is based
in the Ukrainian-speaking west, pursues a strong Ukrainian
nationalist agenda and opposes attempts by the Regions to
promote the Russian language over Ukrainian - boosted opposition
ranks that have been weakened by the jailing of Tymoshenko.
The other new opposition wild card in parliament will be
held by Klitschko's UDAR (Punch) party which was in fourth place
behind the Regions, the communists and the united opposition
which includes Tymoshenko's Batkivschyna (Fatherland).
Many voters made clear they were frustrated with the
performance of the established political parties over the past
few years. Corruption is a big concern in Ukraine and many
Ukrainians face economic hardship.
"We have seen some parties in power and others as well,"
said Tetyana, 27, referring to Batkivshchyna and the Regions.
"We have seen the results."
Even in Don'ts, Yanukovich's main stronghold in the east of
the country, many voters said they were disillusioned by the
"I voted for the Regions Party but simply because it is the
lesser of the evils. I can't say I am a great fan of the
Regions, but all the rest are worse," said 58-year-old Victor
Gregory, a head of section in the construction sector.
Tymoshenko, Ukraine's most vibrant opposition figure, was
jailed for seven years last year for abuse of office relating to
a 2009 gas deal with Russia which she made when she was prime
minister. The Yanukovich government says the agreement saddled
Ukraine with an enormous price for gas supplies.
The country of 46 million, a major exporter of steel and
grain, is more isolated politically on the international stage
than it has been for years.
Apart from being at odds with the United States and the
European Union over Tymoshenko, Ukraine does not see eye to eye
with Russia, which has turned a deaf ear to Kiev's calls for
In Ukraine, the government is also blamed for not stamping
out corruption and has backed off from painful reforms that
could secure much-needed lending from the International Monetary
Fund (IMF) to shore up its export-driven economy.
The partial results indicated the Regions alone would win
more than 200 seats, and dozens of seats are expected to be won
by independent candidates who will support the Regions or join
Boris Kolesnikov, a deputy prime minister, said he foresaw
the Regions picking up two thirds of the individual districts.
With the West seeing the poll as a test of Ukraine's
commitment to democracy after Tymoshenko's imprisonment,
interest will focus on the judgment by observers from the ONCE
European security and human rights body later on Monday.
Arsenic Yatsenyuk, head of the united opposition in the
absence of Tymoshenko, said: "The exit poll results have shown
that the people of Ukraine support the opposition and not the
A WELL-PEPPERED 'BORSCH'
Kitsch, the two-metre-tall RBC heavyweight boxing champion,
will now enter parliament at the head of his new party and could
be a towering new force in the assembly. He has been critical
of corruption and crony ism under Yanukovich's rule.
He says his party will team up with Yatsenyuk and other
members of the opposition, including Svoboda, though his refusal
to join a pre-election coalition engendered suspicion.
He ruled out any pact with the Regions. "We do not foresee
any joint work with the Party of the Regions and its communist
satellite. We are ready to work with those political parties
which propose a European path of development," he said.
Svoboda leader Ole Tyahnybok, a 43-year-old surgeon, pledged
to stick by a pre-election agreement and work with Yatsenyuk and
other opposition leaders in the new parliament.
He pressed Kitsch to formally join the united opposition.
"We can only hope that, having looked at the situation which has
emerged, Vital Kitsch will unite with us," he said in televised
"Svoboda is the biggest sensation," said political analyst
Volodymyr Lysenko of the Pentad think tank. "The Ukrainian
political borsch (soup) has got a bit more spicy. There will be
more pepper but how it is going to taste is another question."
Lysenko said that he saw the vote for Svoboda as reflecting
a protest against the political establishment.