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Last Updated: Monday, 1 October 2007, 11:39 GMT 12:39 UK
Q&A: Ukrainian parliamentary poll

Ukraine's Orange Revolution parties are set to narrowly win Sunday's snap parliamentary elections called by President Viktor Yushchenko, partial results and exit polls suggest.

Elected in March 2006, the parliament was controlled by parties which formed a government led by Viktor Yanukovych - Mr Yushchenko's rival in the 2004 presidential election.

Why the early election?

Mr Yushchenko dissolved parliament on 2 April on the grounds that the ruling coalition was trying to boost its power by accepting defectors from the opposition and forces which backed the president.

He argued that the constitution only allows whole parliamentary blocs to change sides, not individuals.

He initially called the snap election for 27 May and later postponed it till mid-June.

The government and its supporters said the move was unconstitutional, which led to a two-month confrontation.

Mr Yushchenko, Mr Yanukovych and parliamentary speaker Oleksandr Moroz agreed in late May that the election would be held on 30 September, provided that at least 150 opposition and pro-president MPs formally gave up their seats, thereby creating the legal grounds for dissolving parliament.

Who will be in the new parliament?

Partial results and exit polls suggest that at least five parties and blocs out of 20 will get the minimum 3% share of the vote needed to enter parliament:

  • The Party of Regions, led by Mr Yanukovych, which gained the most votes in 2006
  • The opposition bloc of former PM Yulia Tymoshenko, an uneasy ally of the president and uncompromising critic of the Yanukovych government
  • The Our Ukraine-People's Self-Defence bloc, an alliance of pro-president forces led by Yury Lutsenko, a popular former interior minister
  • The Communist Party, one of the two members of the Yanukovych-led coalition
  • The centrist Lytvyn bloc, led by former speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn

It is still unclear if the Socialist Party, led by Mr Moroz, will be in the parliament. The party backed Mr Yushchenko during the 2004 Orange Revolution but joined Mr Yanukovych's coalition in August 2006.

What are the possible outcomes?

A weak coalition government is the probable result but it could take various forms, none of which is likely to produce much stability:

  • A restored Orange coalition of the Our Ukraine-People's Self-Defence and Tymoshenko blocs, which the leaders of both blocs say is their favoured outcome
  • A hung parliament, the consequences of which are unclear since the constitution forbids the dissolution of parliament for a year after an early election
  • A grand coalition between Our Ukraine-People's Self-Defence and the Party of Regions, which the leaders of the former have explicitly ruled out

  • A repeat, or near-repeat, of the present coalition of the Party of Regions with left-wing allies

How much power does parliament really have?

Under the current constitution, which came into force in 2006, the president shares power with a parliamentary coalition which forms much of the government.

The coalition nominates the prime minister and most of the cabinet ministers.

The president nominates the foreign minister and defence minister, as well as the prosecutor-general and the head of the Security Service, but parliament has to approve the appointments, as well as dismissals from these posts.

Was the vote be free and fair?

Before the poll, all sides had pointed to problems with the voter rolls as a possible means for rigging the election result.

There were concerns that citizens working abroad, dead people and duplications in the voter rolls might all lead to voting fraud.

Mr Yanukovych had suggested his supporters would organise mass protests if they judged the election to be rigged.

He had also criticised Mr Yushchenko for campaigning in favour of Our Ukraine-People's Self-Defence.

But the president had dismissed a warning on this issue from the Central Electoral Commission, in which the coalition has a majority.

What dominated the campaign?

In contrast to recent election campaigns, in which conflicting pro-Russian and pro-Western agendas were highlighted, the leading forces initially appeared to have heeded a call by President Yushchenko not to focus on divisive foreign policy issues.

But as the campaign gathered pace, the Party of Regions called for a referendum to be held on giving the Russian language official status and on the possibility of Ukraine's Nato membership.

The other election frontrunners were mainly focusing on domestic issues - social standards and corruption.

The Party of Regions, Our Ukraine-People's Self-Defence and Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc parties had all proposed to increase child support payments.

Mr Yushchenko had said that cancellation of MPs' immunity from prosecution was essential to overcoming corruption.

But Mr Yanukovych had called for abolition of immunity not just for MPs, but for the president and other officials.

Ms Tymoshenko had spoken of the need for a new constitution, and a referendum on the form of government to be held alongside the election.

However, pro-president forces had agreed with Ms Tymoshenko on the need to rewrite the constitution, but ruled out holding a referendum on polling day.

BBC Monitoring selects and translates news from radio, television, press, news agencies and the internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages. It is based in Caversham, UK, and has several bureaux abroad.

Ukranian politicians setting out their stall

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