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Comedian leads exit polls in Ukrainian presidential election

By Daniel Uria
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Comedian leads exit polls in Ukrainian presidential election
Exit polls showed Ukrainian comedian Volodymyr Zelenskiy atop the field of presidential candidates as he will likely face acting President Petro Poroshenko in a second round of voting in April. Photo by Stepan/Franko/EPA

March 31 (UPI) -- Comedian Volodymyr Zelenskiy sat at the top of exit polls as Ukrainians voted in presidential elections Sunday.

The 41-year-old television actor held 29.25 percent of the vote, while current President Petro Poroshenko, 53, was second with 19.19 percent, as 63.92 percent of all registered voters cast their ballots, the Kyiv Post reported.

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Neither candidate emerged from the field of 39 entrants with more than 50 percent of the vote, prompting a second round of voting between the top two candidates on April 21.

Former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, 58, trailed behind the pair with 13.75 percent. Tymoshenko told reporters at her campaign headquarters that her campaign exit poll predicted she came second with 20.9 percent.

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Zelenskiy, who stars in a satirical TV show about a citizen who becomes president by fighting corruption, has captivated the attention of the country's young voters by campaigning largely through social media and eschewing traditional outlets such as rallies and interviews.

He has also gained support amid conflicts over language rights by readily speaking Russian and Ukrainian.

Poroshenko has run on the slogan "Army, Language, Faith" and has attributed his support of the military for keeping separatists in check.

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He also negotiated an Association Agreement with the EU, including visa-free travel for Ukrainians during his time in office.

Tymoshenko had previously played a role in Ukraine's first effort to align with the EU in 2004, when she served as prime minister.

Amid efforts to fulfill requirements to tighten Ukraine's relationship with the European Union and conflict between Ukrainian troops and Russian-backed separatists, the three leading candidates have embraced pro-EU stances while no pro-Russian candidates are expected to contend.

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