by Tammy Lynch
As of 8:50 AM Ukraine time, Ukrayinska Pravda reports that 71.57% of Ukraine's presidential election ballots have been counted.
These early results show a wider gap than predicted by the normally very reliable "National Exit Poll," which is a consortium of respected polling firms. That poll had predicted a gap between first-place Viktor Yanukovych and second-place PM Yulia Tymoshenko of about 4 points.
Other exit polls, however, showed gaps up to 16 points. (See post directly below.)
Currently, the gap sits at approximately 12 points:
Yanukovych - 36.02%
Tymoshenko - 24.65%
Since no candidate earned 50% of the vote, these two candidates will proceed to a run off on February 7.
Serhiy Tyhypko - 13.01%
Arseniy Yatsenyuk - 6.96%
Viktor Yushchenko - 5.19%
Hence, Viktor Yushchenko is now officially a lame duck president.
Third place Serhiy Tyhypko already has ruled out endorsing either Yanukovych or Tymoshenko, although in Ukraine politics, never is rarely never.
Ukraine's regions are not reporting their results uniformly, although all are generally in the same ballbark. Because of the regional differences, these numbers likely will shift somewhat before they are fully counted, with the best guess of many being that Tymoshenko will be about 10 points behind.