Comedian Volodymyr Zelensky has scored a landslide
victory in Ukraine’s presidential election.
With nearly all ballots counted in the run-off vote, Volodymyr Zelensky, 41,
had taken more than 73% with incumbent Petro Poroshenko trailing far behind on
He told celebrating supporters: “I
will never let you down.”
Russian PM Dmitry Medvedev commented in a Facebook post that Russia wants
Volodymyr Zelensky to show “sound judgement”, “honesty” and
“pragmatism” so that relations can improve. Russia backs separatists
in eastern Ukraine.
He said he expected Volodymyr Zelensky to “repeat familiar ideological
formulas” that he used in the election campaign, adding: “I have no illusions on that score.
“At the same time, there is a
chance to improve relations with our country.”
Petro Poroshenko, who admitted defeat after the first exit polls were
published, has said he will not be leaving politics.
He told voters that Volodymyr Zelensky was too inexperienced to stand up to
Ukraine is voting in the first round of
presidential elections with current leader Petro Poroshenko seeking re-election
but the surprise front-runner is a comedian, Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
Petro Poroshenko and Volodymyr Zelenskiy, along with former PM Yulia
Tymoshenko, have expressed largely pro-European views during campaigning.
None of the pro-Russian candidates are seen as serious contenders.
If no candidate gets more than 50% on March 31, the top two will fight it
out in a second round on April 21.
A total of 39 candidates are on the ballot paper, but only the three
front-runners are considered to have any chance of victory.
President Poroshenko has significant powers over security, defense and
foreign policy and the ex-Soviet republic’s system is described as
The current leader, one of Ukraine’s wealthiest oligarchs, was elected in a snap
vote after former pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych was toppled in the
February 2014 Maidan Revolution, which was followed by Russia’s annexation of
Crimea and a Russian-backed insurgency in the east.
The next president will inherit a deadlocked conflict between Ukrainian
troops and Russian-backed separatists in the east, while Ukraine strives to
fulfill EU requirements for closer economic ties.
The EU says that about 12% of Ukraine’s 44 million people are
disenfranchised, largely those who live in Russia and in Crimea, which Russia
annexed in March 2014.
Separatist-controlled areas are boycotting the election.
Volodymyr Zelenskiy, 41, is aiming to turn his satirical TV show – in which
he portrays an ordinary citizen who becomes president after fighting corruption
– into reality.
He has done no rallies and few interviews, and appears to have no strong
political views apart from a wish to be new and different.
The comedian’s extensive use of social media appeals to younger voters.
Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s readiness to speak both Russian and Ukrainian, at a
time when language rights are a hugely sensitive topic, has gained him support
in Ukraine’s largely Russian-speaking east.
Opinion polls suggest Volodymyr Zelenskiy will have a clear lead over Petro
Poroshenko and Yulia Tymoshenko in the first round, and would retain it in a
run-off against either of them.
Petro Poroshenko, 53, aims to appeal to conservative Ukrainians through his
slogan “Army, Language, Faith”.
The current president says his backing for the military has helped keep the
separatists in eastern Ukraine in check. He also negotiated an Association
Agreement with the EU, including visa-free travel for Ukrainians. During his
tenure the Ukrainian Orthodox Church has become independent of Russian control.
However, Poroshenko’s campaign has been dogged by corruption allegations,
including a scandal over defense procurement, which erupted last month.
The third main contender is Yulia Tymoshenko, 58, who has served as prime
minister and ran for president in 2010 and 2014. She played a leading role in
the 2004 Orange Revolution, Ukraine’s first big push to ally itself with the
The front-runner among the pro-Russian candidates, Yuriy Boyko, says he
would “normalize” relations with Russia.
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