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Wednesday 21 August 2019

Ukrainian leader seeks backing to fight corruption in vote

Mr Zelenskiy, who took office in May, called the election three months ahead of schedule.

A woman holds a ballot at a polling station during a parliamentary election in Kiev, Ukraine (Evgeniy Maloletka/AP)
A woman holds a ballot at a polling station during a parliamentary election in Kiev, Ukraine (Evgeniy Maloletka/AP)

By Yuras Karmanau, Associated Press

Ukrainians are voting in an early parliamentary election in which the new party of President Volodymyr Zelenskiy is set to take the largest share of votes.

Polls ahead of Sunday’s balloting showed Mr Zelenskiy’s Servant of the People party getting support from a little more than half of those who intended to vote.

But only 225 of the 424 seats to be filled in the Verkhovna Rada parliament are being chosen by party list; the rest are single-mandate seats, whose distribution could differ from nationwide sentiment.

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)

Mr Zelenskiy, who took office in May, called the election three months ahead of schedule because the parliament was dominated by his opponents.

He is seeking a majority that would support his promised fight against Ukraine’s endemic corruption and for other reforms.

His Servant of the People party — named after the television comedy in which he played a teacher who unexpectedly becomes president — is supported by 52% of the Ukrainians who intend to vote, according to a survey by the Kiev International Institute of Sociology.

A party led by one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s closest associates, tycoon Viktor Medvedchuk, is polling in second place with about 10%, followed by the European Solidarity party of former President Petro Poroshenko, whom Mr Zelenskiy defeated in a landslide in the country’s spring presidential election.

Mr Zelenskiy’s party intends to continue a pro-Western course toward joining the European Union and Nato, combining this with economic reforms and an intensified fight against endemic corruption.

Mr Medvedchuk says Ukraine’s proper course is to improve its relations with Russia, which plummeted after Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and its support for Russia-backed separatists fighting government troops in a war that has killed more than 13,000 people.

Mr Medvedchuk proposes that Ukraine grant autonomy to rebel areas in the east and offer amnesty to the separatists.

He said Ukraine could get a 25% discount on natural gas imports from Russia if it takes steps that satisfy the Kremlin.

Since Mr Putin is the godfather of Mr Medvedchuk’s daughter, his statements likely reflect Kremlin thinking.

Mr Medvedchuk and the Russian leader met on Thursday in St Petersburg.

Dmytro Razumkov, head of Mr Zelenskiy’s party, said it is ready to negotiate with Russia on mechanisms for conflict resolution and seeks peace in the east “but not at any cost”.

PA Media

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