A comedian whose political experience is limited to playing the president on TV was likely to top the first round as Ukrainians voted for a president yesterday amid frustrations over living standards and corruption.
Actor Volodymyr Zelensky’s bid started as a long shot, but he has leapfrogged establishment politicians in the nation of 45 million that is fighting a Russia-backed separatist conflict in its east.
The 41-year-old star of the political comedy Servant of the People, which last week returned for its third season, had more than 25 percent support in final surveys, well ahead of his nearest rivals.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko was vying with former Ukrainian prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko to face Zelensky in a run-off this month, according to polls.
A recent survey put them neck and neck at about 17 percent, although another showed Poroshenko — who amassed a vast fortune in the chocolate business before being elected leader in 2014 — pulling ahead of ally-turned-foe Tymoshenko to make the second round.
In polling stations across Ukraine, voters expressed dissatisfaction with the candidates and many told reporters that they were opting for what they saw as the least of three evils.
“I’m voting for anyone apart from Poroshenko. I don’t believe him, he cheated us,” said 40-year-old housewife Olga, who had come to a polling station in the western city of Lviv with her young daughter.
“I’m just going to go into the booth and decide who to vote for. I just don’t know. Definitely not for Zelensky,” said Irina, a 35-year-old manicurist in the capital, Kiev.
There were a record 39 candidates on the ballot paper, but only the three frontrunners had a realistic chance of progressing to a run-off vote.
All three have said they would keep Ukraine on the European course it has charted since a 2014 revolution that forced pro-Russian then-Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych from office.
Poroshenko was elected on promises to tackle graft, align Ukraine with the West and shut down the separatist fighting.
However, the conflict is grinding on, corruption is rife and the country is struggling to recover from an economic crisis that began in 2014.
The 53-year-old president has positioned himself as the only person able to stand up to the Kremlin and has promised to return Crimea to Ukraine if he is re-elected.
The pledge has been widely dismissed as unrealistic.
Zelensky, meanwhile, has been criticized for the vagueness of his manifesto, the key pledges of which were chosen following a public vote on social media.
The entertainer has eschewed rallies and interviews in favor of playing gigs with his comedy troupe up to the final days of campaigning.
However, supporters said only a brand-new face can clean up the murky politics of one of the poorest nations in Europe.
Some accuse Zelensky of acting as a front for the interests of oligarch Igor Kolomoysky, who owns the channel that broadcasts the entertainer’s shows, but he denies any political links.
Tymoshenko — who was once known for her traditional plaited hairstyle, but now opts for a more conventional pony tail — has focused on the cost of living.
She has promised to cut consumer gas prices in half and boost pensions as she appealed to an older base during her third bid for the presidency.
“Today we have a chance to change everything,” Tymoshenko said as she cast her vote in Kiev.
VULNERABLE: Many women do not report sexual harassment by their landlord over fears they could lose the roof over their head, an expert said A growing number of landlords are asking tenants for sex in exchange for housing as COVID-19 lockdowns and job cuts have left many struggling to pay their rent, housing experts said. A survey by the National Fair Housing Alliance of more than 100 fair housing groups combating discrimination across the US found that 13 percent had seen an increase in sexual harassment complaints during the pandemic. “If I did not have sex with him, he was going to put me out,” one woman facing eviction by her property manager told the alliance in an podcast on its Web site. “As a single
‘OBVIOUS DIFFERENCE’: The Wuhan Institute of Virology has been researching bat coronaviruses to trace the SARS pathogen, which is 80 percent similar to SARS-CoV-2 The Chinese virology institute in the city where COVID-19 first emerged has three live strains of bat coronavirus on-site, but none match the new contagion wreaking havoc around the world, its director has said. Scientists think COVID-19 — which first emerged in Wuhan and has killed more than 340,000 people worldwide — originated in bats and could have been transmitted to people via another mammal. However, the director of the Wuhan Institute of Virology told state broadcaster China Global Television Network that claims made by US President Donald Trump and others that the novel coronavirus could have escaped from the facility were
HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES? An institute of the Chinese Ministry of Public Security and a company are to be sanctioned over ‘human rights violations and abuses’ The US Department of Commerce on Friday said that it would sanction a Chinese government institute and eight companies over alleged human rights abuses against Uighurs and other minorities in China’s western Xinjiang region. “These nine parties are complicit in human rights violations and abuses committed in China’s campaign of repression, mass arbitrary detention, forced labor and high-technology surveillance against Uighurs, ethnic Kazakhs and other members of Muslim minority groups in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region,” the department said in a statement. The Chinese Ministry of Public Security’s Institute of Forensic Science and Aksu Huafu Textiles Co are to be sanctioned “for
SPACE RACE: The China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp mission aims to land a robotic rover and put a probe into orbit around the planet China is targeting a July launch for its ambitious Mars mission, which includes landing a remote-controlled robot on the surface of the Red Planet, the company in charge of the project has said. Beijing has invested billions of dollars in its space program in an effort to catch up with its rival, the US, and affirm its status as a major world power. The Mars mission is among a number of new space projects China is pursuing, including putting Chinese astronauts on the moon and having a space station by 2022. Beijing had been planning the Mars mission for some time this year,