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Ukrainian parliamentary elections begin

Written by: Staff
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KIEV, Mar 26 (Reuters) Ukrainians began voting in parliamentary polls today, providing the first electoral test for President Viktor Yushchenko's liberal team that rose to power through the 2004 ''Orange Revolution''.

At stake is the fate of a country of 47 million whose leaders have been unable to deliver on promises after prising Ukraine loose from centuries of Russian domination and setting it on a course for joining the European mainstream.

Pre-poll surveys suggested the Regions Party of Moscow-backed Viktor Yanukovich was likely to take the biggest slice of the vote.

Such an outcome would mark a political comeback for Yanukovich, who was humiliated by Yushchenko in a presidential poll re-run after the December 2004 Orange Revolution street protests.

The surveys put Yushchenko's Our Ukraine party in second place and the bloc of Yulia Tymoshenko, his estranged ally and former prime minister, in third place.

Thirty-seven million voters are eligible to cast ballots for a 450-seat parliament, which for the first time will have the power to appoint the prime minister.

Polls close at 1430 ist hrs.

REUTERS CH RK1030

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