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Ukrainian presidential election: Comedian Volodymyr Zelensky leads in early results

Ukrainian presidential election: Comedian Volodymyr Zelensky leads in early results
Comedian Volodymyr Zelensky is leading in the presidential election in Ukraine with over 30 percent of the vote after more than 60% of the ballots has been counted. Incumbent President Petro Poroshenko is second with 16.4 percent.

Zelensky, a newcomer in politics, campaigned on an anti-corruption platform and the image of a character (the Ukrainian president) he played in a popular satirical TV show, ‘Servant of the People’. Critics say he is just a figurehead for tycoon Igor Kolomoisky, an allegation that both strongly deny.

The leader of the presidential race, Zelensky, has expressed his gratitude to those Ukrainians who voted “not just for the crack,” as he put it. 

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Poroshenko, on his part, thanked all Ukrainians for attending the polls, lauding their resolve to vote. Ukraine has never seen as tough competition as during this election, he said, adding that he considers it to be a very good sign.

Poroshenko’s campaign is focused on the promise that one day Ukraine will join the EU and NATO, an aspiration that was enshrined in the Ukrainian constitution during his first term. He also presents himself as a staunch nationalist, as he has proposed restricting the use of the Russian language in Ukraine to promote Ukrainian, and has expressed his support for the newly-formed Orthodox Church of Ukraine, which the Russian Orthodox Church sees as a schismatic force.

Yulia Tymoshenko, a veteran of Ukrainian politics, is in third place with slightly over 13 percent. While the official data suggests otherwise, Tymoshenko has claimed that she actually scored second and will be in the second round of the elections, accusing the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) of interfering in the polls.

She served as prime minister twice and spent three years in prison under Poroshenko’s predecessor – which she insists was political persecution. Her main message is the promise of better living standards and a lower cost of living.

If neither of the candidates gets 50 percent plus one vote, a second round will be held on April 19 between the top two candidates. At least 45 percent of eligible voters cast their ballot in the election, but there’s no final data on the turnout available yet.

As the day progressed, Ukraine’s Central Election Commission officially announced there will be a second round of the 2019 presidential election. It is scheduled for April 21, when Poroshenko will compete against Zelensky who scored twice as many votes during the first round as of Monday afternoon.

The Interior Ministry received some 1,900 complaints about alleged violations and 31 criminal cases have been launched in response. The election commission, however, said no significant violations have happened.

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