Comedian Volodymyr Zelenskiy, who has no prior political experience, is leading the first round of Ukraine’s presidential election, putting incumbent leader Peter Poroshenko in the second place, according to exit polls.
On Sunday night, the exit polls said that Zelenskiy received 30.4 per cent of the vote followed by Poroshenko on 17.8 per cent, the BBC reported on Monday.
Former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko appears to have been eliminated on a projected 14.2 per cent.
Zelenskiy and Poroshenko will not to take part in a run-off election on April 21.
“I’m very happy but this is not the final action,” Zelenskiy told the BBC shortly after the exit polls were announced.
Poroshenko described his forecast second place as a “harsh lesson”.
Meanwhile, the Interior Ministry said that hundreds of electoral violations were reported in Sunday’s election, but foreign observers said the vote appeared to be mainly smooth.
A total of 39 candidates were in the fray and more than 34 million citizens were eligible to vote in nearly 30,000 polling stations across Ukraine.
Zelenskiy, 41, is aiming to turn his satirical TV show “Servant of the People”, in which he portrays an ordinary citizen who becomes president after fighting corruption, into reality.
His extensive use of social media appealed to younger voters.
Poroshenko, 53, a chocolate magnate and one of Ukraine’s wealthiest people, was elected in a snap vote after former pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych was toppled in the February 2014 Maidan Revolution, which was followed by Moscow’s annexation of Crimea and insurgency in eastern Ukraine.
He aimed to appeal to conservative Ukrainians through his slogan “Army, Language, Faith”.