Comic Volodymyr Zelensky has won Ukraine’s presidential runoff vote, defeating incumbent President, Petro Poroshenko with 73.2 per cent of the vote against 25.3, according to exit polls.
The ballots cast yesterday were yet to be counted by Ukraine’s Central Election Commission, but the exit polls coincided with the official results after the first round of election held three weeks ago.
Poroshenko conceded defeat at a press conference minutes after the exit polls were announced, saying he would help the new president with his inauguration.
Zelensky, the star of the Servant of the People television sitcom, where he fights corruption as a teacher-turned-president, benefited from the Ukrainians’ fatigue of mainstream politicians.
The majority of the population hold Poroshenko responsible for the government’s failure to tackle endemic corruption in the country.
“Low living standards and corruption are problems you will suffer from no matter where you live in Ukraine – Kherson, Lviv or Donetsk. People migrate to Poland in droves. Why does Poland live better than us?” Inna Bellenko told Al Jazeera in the capital, Kiev.
“The new generation [Zelensky’s team] will hopefully bring new ideas and strength to raise our country from its knees. I believe he is truly committed to improving Ukraine,” she said.
Olesia, the 34-year-old mother of three who didn’t want to give her surname, said she understood that Ukraine was taking “a big risk” by bringing an untested president in power.
“But we have no choice,” she said. “We have to either live in the past or try something new. He seems like a decent person. We trust him more. I would like all the people to live well, not only a small part [of the population.”
Tetyana Alekseieva, the 26-year-old who also voted for Zelensky, said: “I hope this change is for the good. Hopefully the war will end.”
“We don’t know whether Zelensky will be better than the previous presidents, but I prefer to give someone new a chance,” she said. “We need to stop corruption which is everywhere now. I hope this president will help.”
Yuriy Kulinich, 40, who voted for Porosheko, said he feared the uncertainty.
“Zelensky has not provided us with his action plan and it is very unclear what will he do. There is a particular fear that Ukraine can roll back to the [Viktor] Yanukovich times of pre-Maidan Ukraine,” he said referring to the Russian-backed president Ukraine ousted in the pro-West uprising in 2014.
“There will be a revenge of [Yanukovich’s] Party of Regions members – pro-Russian forces – and it is causing tension. This is the worst case [scenario]. In the best case, we will just stall and again we will just lose this time. There is no time left though.”
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