The signs are pointing to a relatively clear, free and fair first round in Ukraine’s presidential elections. As of 3 p.m. Kyiv time, turnout was 46 percent, with no dramatic regional anomalies that would suggest ballot stuffing or ballot rigging. Opora, an activist group with a high degree of credibility and independence, is reporting no serious violations and an atmosphere of general tolerance and professionalism as the vote proceeds.

This is reassuring as it will mark the 4th nationwide poll since the Orange Revolution that has been held in similarly open, free and fair circumstances.

While outgoing President Yushchenko is likely to finish a weak 4th of 5th, he will be remembered for protecting due electoral process and never succumbing to the temptation of pressuring  the mass media.

Early information from independent exit polling confirms that Yanukovych and Yulia Tymoshenko are headed by a second round runoff with Yanukovych holding a nine percent lead.

Exit polls show Yanukovych and Tymoshenko entering the second round, with Yanukovych holding a lead of between 4.3 to 9.7 percent. This gives Yanukovych the better chance to prevail in the second round, but it also means Yanukovych’s lead is not insurmountable and the winner will likely prevail by a narrow margin.

Adrian Karatnycky, an Atlantic Council nonresident senior fellow, is Managing Partner at the Myrmidon Group LLC and co-director and co-founder of the Ukrainian-Jewish encounter.

Related Experts: Adrian Karatnycky