Sunday, October 31, 1999 Published at 23:02 GMT
Ukrainian president faces run-off
The election count is almost complete
Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma is facing a run-off against Communist Party leader Petro Symonenko after Sunday's first round of voting in the country's presidential election.
Voting turnout was reported to be around 75%, or 26 million voters, which was higher than in 1994 when Mr Kuchma was first elected president.
He is now almost certain to face a run-off against Mr Symonenko on 14 November.
President Kuchma, a moderate reformer, faced 12 opponents, and needed to win more than 50% of the vote to win outright.
Crimea and the eastern industrial region, which have a larger ethnic-Russian population, voted mostly for Mr Symonenko.
The central region was divided.
President Kuchma must now be hoping that people who did not support him in the first round will vote against a Communist candidate and give him victory in the second.
The strongest competition came from several left-wing candidates who advocated a return to Soviet-style state economic controls and closer ties with Russia.
Other left-wing candidates included radical Marxist Natalia Vitrenko, who called for Ukraine to stop paying its foreign debt, restore its Soviet-time nuclear arsenal and forge an anti-Nato union with Russia and Belarus.
Oleksandr Moroz, head of Ukraine's Socialist Party, promised a Soviet-style social safety net for needy Ukrainians.
The other main contender, former prime minister Yevhen Marchuk, advocated pro-western reforms and promised to take tough steps against crime and inefficiency.
Opponents of Mr Kuchma have complained of unfair campaigning by election officials and of forced voting.
But CEC chairman Mikhailo Ryabets, has rejected the allegations, accusing politicians of "playing games" with the ballot.
Fear of change
His supporters have given him credit, however, for managing to avoid civil unrest and improve Ukraine's international standing.
Some Ukrainians, especially pensioners, said they valued continuity above all else.
"I just don't want any changes," said a retired engineer, Lyudmyla Litvynova. "Some kind of stability is always better than living at a time of changes."