COMMUNIST PARTY LEADS IN UKRAINIAN ELECTIONS. Preliminary returns from Kyiv show the Communist Party leading in the 29 March general and local elections. With between 20 and 40 percent of the vote counted, Central Election Commission Chairman Mykhaylo Ryabets projected that as many as eight parties would overcome the 4 percent threshold to enter parliament. Both the commission and two polling organizations predicted that the Communist Party will win some 25 percent of the votes. Ryabets said it appears that more than 50 percent of registered voters participated in the election, with turnout largest in the western part of
the country. Half of the 450 seats in the unicameral parliament will be directly elected, the other half apportioned to parties and blocs. PB

NO SERIOUS VOTING IRREGULARITIES, ONLY MILD CRIMEAN PROTESTS. International observers monitoring the elections reported no serious violations, Reuters reported. Central Election Commission Chairman Mykhaylo Ryabets said some 400 monitors from 38 countries had observed the election throughout the country. Alain Chenard, the head of the Council of Europe's monitoring team, said "everything went more or less smoothly." Ukrainian television reported an arson attack at a polling station in western Ukraine. ITAR-TASS reported that voting took place without any major incidents in Crimea, but there were some peaceful protests by disenfranchised Tatars. Crimean Tatar leaders had called for a boycott of the election by those Tatars eligible to vote. PB

KUCHMA PLEDGES COOPERATION. Conceding that left-wing parties fared well in the election, Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma said on 29 March that his government will do everything possible to work with the new parliament, Reuters reported. Kuchma said the previous day that his government had laid the foundation for economic growth, and he urged voters not to back "extremism." Oleksandr Moroz, the parliamentary speaker of the current parliament, said, however, that Kuchma's policies are at a "dead end." Former President Leonid Kravchuk, one of the leaders of the centrist Social Democratic Party, said the "people are voting against the economic situation in this country." PB