Monday 20 May 2019

Comedian claims landslide win in Ukraine’s presidential election, exit poll says

Volodymyr Zelenskiy was credited with 73.2% of the vote.

Ukrainian comedian and presidential candidate Volodymyr Zelenskiy leaves a booth at a polling station (Vadim Ghirda/AP)
Ukrainian comedian and presidential candidate Volodymyr Zelenskiy leaves a booth at a polling station (Vadim Ghirda/AP)

By Yuras Karmanau, Associated Press

Comedian Volodymyr Zelenskiy has a commanding lead over incumbent Petro Poroshenko in Ukraine’s presidential election, an exit poll suggests.

Results from the exit poll released on Sunday after voting stations closed showed Mr Zelenskiy receiving 73.2% of the nationwide vote, ahead of Mr Poroshenko on 25.3%.

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Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko gestures while speaking to the media (Efrem Lukatsky/AP)

The poll conducted by the Kiev International Institute of Sociology and the Razumkov Centre public opinion organisation was based on more than 13,000 responses to face-to-face questions at 300 polling places as of 6pm, two hours before the polls closed.

The poll claims a margin of error of three percentage points.

If borne out by election returns, the overwhelming victory by Mr Zelenskiy would stand as a crushing rebuke to Mr Poroshenko’s five years in office.

Corruption remained pervasive during that time, and a war with Russia-backed separatist rebels in the eastern part of the country killed more than 13,000 people.

Although Mr Zelenskiy was criticised for a vague campaign platform and having never held public office, voters appeared to have cast aside those concerns in favour of a thorough sweep of Ukraine’s political leadership.

“I have grown up under the old politicians and only have seen empty promises, lies and corruption,” said Lyudmila Potrebko, a 22-year-old computer programmer who cast her ballot for Mr Zelenskiy.

“It’s time to change that.”

Mr Zelenskiy. 41, became famous nationwide for his comic portrayal in a television series of a teacher who becomes president after a video of him denouncing corruption goes viral.

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Ukrainians cast their ballots (Evgeniy Maloletka/AP)

Mr Poroshenko was a billionaire confectionery magnate and former foreign minister before he took office in 2014 after massive street protests drove his Russia-friendly predecessor to flee the country.

Although he instituted some reforms, critics said he had not done nearly enough to curb the country’s endemic corruption.

Millions of people living in the rebel-controlled east and in Russia-annexed Crimea were unable to vote.

Russia seized Crimea in 2014 in a move that Ukraine and almost all of the world views as illegal.

Fighting in the east that erupted that same year after the Russian annexation has killed more than 13,000 people.

Press Association

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