Yanukovich lead shrinks in Ukrainian presidential run-off

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Opposition leader Viktor Yanukovich continues to lead in the Ukrainian presidential run-off with 96.45 percent of the ballots counted, official results showed on Monday.

Yanukovich, 59, won 48.34 percent of the vote, compared with 46.05 percent for incumbent Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, according to the Central Election Committee (CEC).

Yanukovich has been leading in the early returns, though by small margins of about two percentage points, which is roughly 500,000 ballots.

Final official results are expected later on Monday.

Yanukovich has been favored as the winner of the election, according to exit polls. He appeared ready to take victory, saying Sunday night on television that Tymoshenko could start to prepare for her resignation as prime minister.

"I think that Yulia Vladimirovna (Tymoshenko) should be preparing for resignation. She understands this well," he said.

On Monday morning, thousands of supporters of Yanukovich gathered for a rally and concert outside the CEC building in Kiev.

Tymoshenko's camp, however, has refused to concede defeat.

CEC Deputy Chairman Andriy Mahera told a briefing on Sunday that the committee has deemed the Feb. 7 presidential election valid.

The CEC has not received information on serious irregularities during the second round of the Ukrainian presidential elections, he said.

The run-off vote was largely consistent with democratic norms, Alexander Torshin, head of the observer mission of the Commonwealth of Independent States Inter-Parliamentary Assembly told reporters on Monday.

Ukrainian Parliamentary Chairman Vladimir Litvin excluded the possibility of a re-run, as occurred in the 2004 presidential elections. There would not be mass protests in Kiev, either, he predicted.

If elected, Yanukovich will become the country's fourth president since independence in 1991.

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