Electoral officers count the ballot papers at a polling station in Kiev on Sunday. Vasily Maximov/ AFP
KIEV: Comedian Volodymyr Zelensky topped the first round of Ukraine’s presidential election with almost twice the vote share of his nearest rival, incumbent Petro Poroshenko, Partial results showed on Monday.
The election commission website gave actor Zelensky 30.2 per cent with Poroshenko trailing on 16.7 per cent, with just over half of all votes counted.
The pair will now meet in a run off set for April 21.
Ex-prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who was herself favourite when she launched her campaign, was knocked out with 13.08 per cent of the vote, the figures showed.
When he announced his long-shot candidacy at the start of the year, Zelensky’s political experience had been limited to playing the president in a TV show.
But he tapped into fatigue with the political class and public frustration over corruption and a stalling economy.
If the actor wins the second round in April, as opinion polls suggest, he will take the reins of one of the poorest countries in Europe — a nation of 45 million people fighting Russian-backed separatists in its industrial east.
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Around 90,000 polling stations across the country opened at 8 a.m., and will close at 5 p.m., reports Efe news. Voters will elect 500 members of the House of Representatives, the lower house, for a four-year term.
Police opened fire outside Ukraine’s embassy in London on Saturday after a vehicle rammed into the ambassador’s parked car and then drove at officers called to the scene.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko stood next to an empty lectern bearing his election rival’s name and used a solo appearance at Ukraine’s largest sports stadium on Sunday to lash out at the race’s inexperienced front-runner as a “virtual candidate.” While Volodymyr Zelenskiy, a television comedian, has never held public office, a public opinion survey had him finishing far ahead of the incumbent president in the April 21 runoff election.
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