No Time For Jokes: Comedian Zelenskiy Nearly Doubles Lead Over Poroshenko

No Time for Jokes: Comedian Zelenskiy Nearly Doubles Lead Over Poroshenko

Comedian Volodymyr Zelenskiy is leading in the Ukrainian presidential election with 30.34 percent of the votes after 85 percent of the ballots have been counted, the country's Central Election Commission (CEC) said on Monday

KIEV (Pakistan Point News / Sputnik - 01st April, 2019) Comedian Volodymyr Zelenskiy is leading in the Ukrainian presidential election with 30.34 percent of the votes after 85 percent of the ballots have been counted, the country's Central Election Commission (CEC) said on Monday.

Ukraine's incumbent President Petro Poroshenko comes second with 16 percent, while Yulia Tymoshenko, former Ukrainian prime minister and head of the Batkivshchyna (Fatherland) party has 13.28 percent.

At the same time, all exit polls indicate that Zelenskiy and Poroshenko will advance into the second round of the election.

Poroshenko has already said that Sunday's election was held freely and in accordance with the standards of Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. The organization itself has not yet given any evaluations on the vote.

In turn, Tymoshenko's election headquarters has accused the Security Service of Ukraine of electoral fraud and inciting provocations throughout election day. The politician herself did not rule out that she would challenge the voting results.

According to the Interior Ministry, the police received more than 2,400 reports about violations in the election process and initiated 60 criminal cases as of Monday.

For the first time in its history, Ukraine denied entry to Russian observers. Moscow has said that this decision calls into question the legitimacy of the whole process as well as casts shadow on the recognition of future election results.

In addition, about 7-10 million Ukrainian citizens were unable to cast their ballots since Kiev had refused to open polling places in Russia and in the territories of the self-proclaimed people's republics of Donetsk and Luhansk.

According to the results of the national exit poll, Zelenskiy has won in the central and southeastern regions of the country. He secured 42.1 percent of votes cast in the south, 32.1 percent cast in the east, 28.5 percent in the center of the country, and 21.8 percent in the west.

The head of the public movement Cops for Clean Elections, Alena Bulgakova, attributed Zelenskiy's lead in to society's demand for new faces.

"The request of the electorate for 'newcomers' in politics is common for the modern system, but here, besides the obvious fresh way of looking at social problems, there are also pitfalls the lack of proper experience in public administration. Amid the information wave related to the voting results, clear violations of electoral rights cannot be ignored. The relevant authorities have received several thousand reports [on violations] on the election day, some of them have already resulted in criminal proceedings. And this is the main issue we must shift our focus to," Bulgakova told Sputnik.

At this point, both Ukraine's current head of state and the leader of the Batkivshchyna party have chances of advancing to the second round of the presidential election.

However, according to Igor Borisov, chairman of the Council of the Russian Public Institute of Suffrage, Poroshenko is ahead thanks to the influence of his office.

"The result is naturally adjusted to the desired need, because in fact it was done the day before, when part of the electorate that did not support the current government was cut off ... Second place [in the presidential race] has been achieved today due to the impact of administrative resources, and it is hard to talk about its compliance with the voter's will," Borisov told Sputnik.

Aleksandr Gushchin, an associate professor at the Department of Post-Soviet Countries of the Russian State University for the Humanities, said that Poroshenko had a chance at winning the second round, but the path there would not be easy.

"I do not rule out that Poroshenko will use administrative resources, his turnout capabilities and so on to turn the tide in his own favor. A low turnout will be in Poroshenko's favor. It [winning the second round] will be difficult for the president since the gap [in the voting results between Poroshenko and Zelenskiy] is quite large. We know from experience that it is quite difficult to overcome the 10 percent gap. But there is a possibility that the president will fight, and that a very serious fight will be forced on Zelenskiy, with Poroshenko's likely victory, as he still has chances [to win]," Gushchin told Sputnik.

According to him, the struggle in the second round "will be very serious, given that [oligarch Ihor] Kolomoisky and a whole conglomerate of Ukrainian oligarchs are betting on Zelenskiy." Gushchin further noted that Tymoshenko might join Zelenskiy's camp, but also that her support and agreements would not necessarily be transparent for example, she could simply urge people not to vote against the comedian.

"In any case, her electorate will be more inclined to vote for Zelenskiy, despite the fact that it is an older age group," Gushchin said.

At the same time, Ukrainian expert Ruslan Bortnik felt that Poroshenko's chances in the runoff were dead in the water.

"In the second round, he [Poroshenko] has nothing to gain. He will obviously lose to Zelenskiy, especially if Zelenskiy succeeds in reaching agreements with the most popular opposition candidates ... I think that the second round will end in a 60 to 40 percent tally," Bortnik told Sputnik.

The current president himself intends to continue to fight for his re-election in the second round. Speaking about Zelenskiy's leadership according to the exit poll, Poroshenko said that "April Fools' Day will come, we will laugh and stop, and we will move forward resolutely starting from April 2, because there is no time for jokes after April 1."

The leader of the Opposition Platform � For Life party, Yuriy Boyko, also hopes that he will pass to the second round.

"Still, we must understand that the results of the exit poll are not the results of the elections. And we do not expect any radical changes, but we are absolutely sure that the battle for the second round is not over yet. Now our headquarters is keeping a parallel counting of votes. Our team's forces, which are represented in all election commissions, are working at full capacity, and we continue to hope for the result that could show that we are closer to the second round," Natalia Korolevskaya, the spokeswoman for Boyko's campaign, said.

According to the Ukrainian Central Election Commission (CEC), Boyko is currently in fourth place with 11.53 percent of the vote.

According to the information from Boyko's headquarters, he ranks first in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. He ranks second in Zaporizhzhia, Kherson, Dnipro, Mykolaiv, Odessa and Kharkiv.

"I believe that today's vote showed two things. The first one is that, despite the tremendous pressure and attempted bribery, there will be a change of power. The second one is that no matter how the current president tries to present it as a victory, in fact it is the kind of a slap in the face of today's government, which it, probably, has never gotten before," Boyko said, as quoted by the Ukrainian NewsOne broadcaster.

According to him, the results of the first round of the election should be announced on Monday, but if the vote count was delayed, this would be an indicator that the process was being manipulated.

Nikola Markovic, a Paris-based political analyst and specialist on the Balkans, has commended Zelenskiy's campaign in a comment to Sputnik.

"Zelenskiy's program is vague, but simple and efficient: he wants the end of the war in Donbas, to put a definitive end to corruption and make Ukrainians prosperous. Who would be against that? ... Another good point for him is his declared opposition to the Ukrainian laws against the Russian language. With half the Ukrainian population speaking Russian at home, it is ridiculous and undemocratic to try to impose Ukrainian everywhere; Ukraine should be a bilingual country," Markovic said.

However, Zelenskiy does not have a relevant political experience to run the country and may face tough opposition from Poroshenko as well as Ukrainian oligarchy, which are "reluctant to give an ounce of power," the expert underlined.

"Poroshenko is going to have a hard time getting back into the race, as the gap is important, but he is a politician and, in the coming month, he will release all his arsenal to destabilize his opponent. On the other hand, Zelenskiy will be strongly helped by his 'godfather' the other major businessman, tycoon Igor Kolomoyskyi, who will be able to organize a competent support team for Zelenskiy," Markovic added.

The expert went on to call for a rigorous monitoring of the second round of the presidential race in order to prevent electoral fraud as "in post-Euromaidan Ukraine, everything is possible."

Alessandro Bertoldi, political analyst and former independent international observer in Crimea and Donbas, said that first round results had proved that support for Poroshenko fell in Ukraine.

"The exercise of democracy is always good news. Hope that the voting operations in Ukraine have been respected and that they will be respected also during the second tour on 21 April. The partial data and projections already make a first analysis possible: the fact that Vladimir Zelenskiy, comedian and a newcomer in Ukrainian politics, has almost doubled the outgoing President Petro Poroshenko, suggests that the Ukrainians have lost trust in their current president," Bertoldi told Sputnik.

The expert has expressed hope that the presidential election would bring stability to Ukraine, which has been engulfed in a domestic crisis for years.

"The result of the runoff is not obvious, because despite the great advantage of Zelenskiy, it will be necessary to see how the votes from the other candidates divide between him and Poroshenko. The hope can only be that the Ukrainians can freely express themselves, in a climate of serenity and transparency, and that these elections can bring a future of peace, prosperity and tranquility to Ukraine after so many years of war and internal persecution," Bertoldi added.

The president in Ukraine is elected for a term of five years. The CEC is required to announce the voting results by April 10. If one of the candidates cannot secure more than half of the votes in the first round, a second round will be held on April 21.