News World Ukrainians go to the polls to elect president

Ukrainians go to the polls to elect president

Ukrainians began voting in a presidential election on Sunday in which a comedian with no political experience and who plays a fictional president in a popular TV series is tipped to win the first round.

Volodymyr Zelenskiy, 41, who is appealing to voters fed up with entrenched corruption, has consistently led opinion polls in a three-horse race against incumbent President Petro Poroshenko and former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko.

At stake is the leadership of a country on the front line of the West’s standoff with Russia after the 2014 Maidan street protests ejected Poroshenko’s Kremlin-friendly predecessor and Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula.

Investors are watching to see if the next president will push reforms required to keep the country in an International Monetary Fund bailout programme that has supported Ukraine through war, sharp recession and a currency plunge.

No candidate is expected to receive more than half the votes, meaning the election would go to a run-off on April 21. Out of a crowded field of 39 candidates, none of the likely winners wants to move Ukraine back into Russia’s orbit.

Poroshenko has fought to integrate the country with the European Union and NATO, while strengthening the military which is fighting Kremlin-backed separatists in the east of the country.

Pushing the use of the Ukrainian language and instrumental in establishing a new independent Orthodox church, the 53-year-old confectionary magnate casts himself as the man to prevent Ukraine again becoming a Russian vassal state.

But reforms crucial to keep foreign aid flowing have been patchy. Conflict in the eastern Donbass region has killed 13,000 people in five years and rumbles on despite Poroshenko’s promise to end it within weeks. Frustration over low living standards and pervasive corruption has left the door open for Zelenskiy.

ANTI-ESTABLISHMENT

Just 9 percent of Ukrainians have confidence in their national government, the lowest of any electorate in the world, a Gallup poll published in March showed.

Zelenskiy has tapped into the anti-establishment mood, though his inexperience makes Western officials and foreign investors wary and sceptics question his fitness to be a wartime commander-in-chief.

Inviting comparisons with U.S. President Donald Trump and Italy’s Five-Star movement, his campaign has relied heavily on social media and comedy gigs of jokes, sketches and song-and-dance routines that poke fun at his political rivals.

“He embodies the perceived need for ‘new faces’ in politics and could sway the young, pro-reform electorate to his side,” said Economist Intelligence Unit analyst Agnese Ortolani.

Zelenskiy’s campaign has blurred the line between reality and the TV series in which he plays a scrupulously honest history teacher who accidentally becomes president.

In series three, which began airing in March, his character is flung into prison and the country falls under the control of oligarchs, populists and ultranationalists, and eventually gets broken up into 28 states. Thinly-disguised characters resembling Poroshenko and Tymoshenko come to power.

The election has been marred by allegations of fraud and vote-buying, meaning one or more of the candidates could contest the result. Ultranationalists acting as election observers have also caused concern about the prospect of violence.

Accused of cheating by Tymoshenko, Poroshenko attended a public prayer on the banks of the Dnieper river in Kiev on Saturday to pray for the elections to be free and fair and, in his words, for “the wisdom of the people who tomorrow will determine the future of Ukraine.”

Top Stories

188 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday

The Health Ministry announced 127 new COVID-19 cases on 22 October, out of 4,304 laboratory tests, taking confirmed infections to 3,154.   The break-down of new...

Confirmed COVID-19 cases in Ygia Polyclinic

Ygia polyclinic is informing the public that due to the fact that a small number of COVID-19 cases have been found among the staff...

President Anastasiades will not resign

President Nicos Anastasiades will not betray the decision of the big majority of the citizens and will complete his term, as the Constitution and...

Citizens request the resignations of those involved in illegal passports’ case

In an announcement, organized groups of people are requesting the immediate resignation of politicians directly or indirectly involved in the issuing of Cypriot passports...

New measures announced by Health Minister due to increase in number of COVID-19 cases

Face masks must be worn outside at all times, the Cabinet decided on Thursday. Moreover, stricter measures apply in all districts and partial lockdown...

Taste

Squash soup

Ingredients: 1 kg pumpkin, cut into small cubes, approximately 5 cups 2 medium (400g) sweet potatoes, cut into cubes, approximately 2 ½ cups 1 chopped leek, only...

Mezedes

No visit to Cyprus is complete without enjoying the traditional meal of many small dishes known as ‘meze’. This large feast, which has been a...

Prawns with fried cheese, barley shaped pasta

Put the barley shaped pasta into a small pan with salted water, bring to a boil and when tender, drain. Peal the prawns leaving...

Salmon and shrimp sheftalies

Mix all ingredients for tabbouli in a bowl and keep to one side so flavours can combine. Prepare the sheftalies: wash and soak the casing...