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.
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.
Russian President Vladimir Putin will hold talks with Pope Francis on Thursday, a day before Ukraine’s Catholic leaders meet at the Vatican to discuss the crisis in their country,
The Russian president on Saturday said Moscow was considering plans to make it easier for all Ukrainians to obtain Russian citizenship, after it earlier moved to grant passports in the country's separatist east.
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