18 January 2010
Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who was second with just under 25%, will face off against Mr. Yanukovych in a Feb. 7 run-off vote.
"This was a good and competitive election and very promising for the future of Ukraine's democracy," said Joao Soares, head of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe's observer mission, in a statement.
"I look forward to the continuation of this positive experience in the second round of the election."
A Council of Europe official commented on recent changes to Ukraine's election law, which critics say increases the chances of fraud, while praising Sunday's vote.
"Ukraine has proven that it can hold a clean election, even under an incomplete and unclear election law, confirming the desire of the Ukrainian people to freely choose their leaders," said Matyas Eorsi, who headed a delegation from the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly.
"However, a major challenge ahead for Ukraine's politicians is to play by the rules rather than with the rules," he said in a statement.
Canada's observer mission also gave the process a tentative thumbs-up Monday, though the Canadians joined international observers in pointing out flaws such as media coverage that was paid for by candidates.
"Our current assessment indicates that on balance, in the Oblasts (administrative divisions) under observation, there was an adequate attempt to meet internationally accepted standards for free and fair elections," said an analysis from the 60-member Canadian contingent of observers, sponsored by the Canada-Ukraine Foundation.
Among the criticisms, the Canadian delegation asked why a 1,000-member contingent of observers from Georgia was denied accreditation.
The Georgians' arrival caused a controversy, with critics saying they were all male, were "well built," and were planning to engage in violations to help Ms. Tymoshenko.
An official from Ms. Tymoshenko's party, meanwhile, said Monday she will demand a parliamentary hearing to consider election law amendments in advance of the second round.
Mr. Yanukovych's lead was larger than exit polls indicated late Sunday, increasing pressure on her to win support from the supporters of most of the major candidates who will drop off the ballot. There were 18 names on Sunday's ballot.
The gap "is still closable," European Council on Foreign Relations analyst Andrew Wilson said Monday.
But Ms. Tymoshenko and her aides "are not as confident as they were."