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Communists make gains in Ukraine

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Ukraine's Communist Party won more than a quarter of the votes in the former Soviet republic's parliamentary elections on Sunday, according to an independent exit poll.

"As of 10:00 p.m., the latest (exit poll) result we have is 26 percent for the communists," Ilko Ku-cheriv, head of the Democratic Initiative group, an independent think-tank, told commercial television channel 1+1 early on Monday.The three other main left-wing parties and blocs had 12 percent of the vote.

Kucheriv said the communists were leading in several central and southern regions according to the exit poll carried out among 10,000 voters across Ukraine.

The predicted communist result was almost nine percent higher than the last opinion poll conducted before the elections.

A large chunk of the 37 million registered voters, fed up with economic hardships, had been widely expected to vote for the left in a show of no-confidence in President Leonid Kuchma's go-slow reforms.

The speaker of the outgoing parliament, Olexander Moroz who heads the Socialist Party, had forecast that the new 450-seat legislature would be "more left."

The exit poll said the main nationalist Rukh Party had 11 percent of the vote, the Green Party 6 percent, the pro-government People's Democratic Party of Uk-raine 5 percent and the centrist Social Democratic Party of Ukraine (United) 5 percent.