Ukrainians gave their comedian-turned-president Volodymyr Zelensky a mandate to reboot the country’s politics on Sunday by handing his party a record score in parliamentary elections, exit polls showed.
Zelensky’s Servant of the People party – named after the sitcom he starred in before his shock presidential win in April -– took 43.9% of the vote in Sunday’s election, according to combined figures from three pollsters.
It was the highest score in a parliamentary election for any party since Ukraine gained its independence with the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.
The pro-Moscow Opposition Platform-For Life came second with 11.5%, the polls said.
The exit polls only showed results for seats assigned by party lists, which represent half of the 450-member parliament.
The rest, in which members are directly elected in their districts, will be crucial in determining how Zelensky will try to form a government.
Full official results will be announced Monday. Turnout when polls closed at 8:00 pm was 49.7%.
Coalition with rock star?
Without a majority, Zelensky will need to form a coalition and has indicated a preference for another new political force, the Golos (Voice) party of rock star Svyatoslav Vakarchuk.
It took 6.3%, crossing the 5% threshold needed to enter parliament.
The result is the culmination of a stunning turnaround in Ukrainian politics and will bring a host of newcomers into parliament and government.
They will face a long list of challenges in a country heavily dependent on foreign aid and scarred by years of war with Russia-backed separatists.
Speaking shortly after the exit polls were released, the 41-year-old Zelensky said his primary goals were to bring peace and tackle corruption.
“Our main priorities – and I repeat this for every Ukrainian – are to end the war, return our prisoners and defeat the corruption that persists in Ukraine,” he said at his party’s election headquarters.
Zelensky’s victory in April was seen as a rejection of the country’s traditional elite for failing to end the separatist conflict, revive the economy or tackle widespread graft.
Former president Petro Poroshenko’s European Solidarity party and former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko’s party Batkivshyna (“Fatherland”) also entered parliament with 8.9% and 7.6% of the vote, according to the exit polls.
Faced with a hostile parliament after his win, Zelensky quickly called snap elections and vowed to bring in a new generation of politicians to lead the country.
Zelensky said after the exit polls that he would “be pleased to invite Mr Vakarchuk for talks” on forming a coalition.
He also said he was looking for a “new face and a specialist in the economy” to become the next prime minister.
– Agence France-Presse