UKRAINIAN President Leonid Kravchuk took a significant lead in presidential elections, unofficial results showed on June 28, but the run-off scheduled in two weeks promises to be tight.
Incomplete returns showed Mr. Kravchuk leading with nearly 38 percent of the vote compared with 32 percent won by Leonid Kuchma, his former prime minister. Votes in the capital of Kiev, expected to support Kravchuk, were still uncounted.
The election reflected deep divisions in the former Soviet republic between a nationalist west and a Russian-speaking, industrialized east.
Kravchuk, who has built up an image as a standard-bearer of Ukrainian independence, overwhelmingly swept western Ukraine, capturing up to 90 percent of the vote in some cities.
MR. KUCHMA, who advocates closer ties with Russia, found support in densely populated eastern and southern Ukraine. He was winning 5 to 1 in the coal-mining city of Luhansk and captured 82 percent of the vote in the Crimean Peninsula, where an ethnic-Russian majority is pressing for closer links to Moscow.
It is unclear how defeated first-round candidates will direct their supporters to vote. But it seems logical that Kuchma will inherit votes from Socialist parliament chairman Olexander Moroz, who took third place with about 14 percent, mostly in conservative eastern Ukraine.
``Kuchma and Moroz clearly share an electorate. The main question is how disciplined the left is, and I expect they will be organized,'' says Christopher Siddall of the International Foundation for Electoral Systems in Washington. ``Kravchuk has access to the state machinery - state television - which can be very effective.''
Kravchuk is likely to absorb votes from fourth-place candidate Volodymyr Lanovy, a market economist who has promoted Ukrainian statehood. Three other defeated candidates - including a former parliament chairman, the education minister, and a wealthy businessman - barely made a dent in the election.
``A vote for Kravchuk is a vote for stability and a vote for Ukrainian statehood,'' says Valery Khmelko, chief analyst at Kiev International Sociology Institute. ``People support Kuchma for one of two reasons - they either believe Ukraine should move closer to Russia, or they just want a change.''