Ukrainian comedian Zelensky becomes president-elect in landslide win
Updated 16:57, 22-Apr-2019
CGTN
00:40

A comedian with no political experience won a landslide victory in Ukraine's presidential election on Sunday, drawing congratulations from global leaders.

With 95 percent of votes counted, Volodymyr Zelenskiy won 73 percent of the vote with incumbent Petro Poroshenko winning just under 25 percent, the Central Election Commission said.

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It was an extraordinary outcome to a campaign that started as a joke but struck a chord with voters frustrated by social injustice, corruption and conflict in eastern Ukraine following Crimea's incorporation into Russia.

The star of the TV series "Servant of the People" will now take the helm of a country of 45 million people beset by challenges and having run on the vaguest of political platforms.

"I will never let you down," Zelensky told jubilant supporters at his campaign headquarters where he was showered with glittering confetti.

"I can tell all post-Soviet countries: 'Look at us! Everything is possible!'" he declared.

Poroshenko admitted defeat at a press conference minutes after the exit polls were announced, saying he would help the new president prepare for the role.

Incumbent Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko's twitter screenshot. /CGTN Photo

Incumbent Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko's twitter screenshot. /CGTN Photo

"Next month, I will leave the office of the head of state. This is the decision of the majority of Ukrainian people. I accept this decision. I am leaving the office, but I want to highlight that I am not leaving politics. I will fight for Ukraine," he said.

"My team and I are ready to support the president in everything that gets us close to the European Union and NATO. And between the official announcement of election results and his inauguration, I am ready to spend any length of time without any restrictions on helping the new president get up to speed," Poroshenko added.

The results of the second round are set to be announced by the Central Election Commission by May 1 and the new president is expected to take office no later than June 3.

Russia welcomes election result

Russian officials on Sunday welcomed the results of the Ukrainian presidential election. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin hailed that the Ukrainian people "voted for change."

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko (L) speaks with presidential candidate Volodymyr Zelensky during a presidential election debate at Olimpiyski stadium in Kiev, April 19, 2019. /Reuters Photo

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko (L) speaks with presidential candidate Volodymyr Zelensky during a presidential election debate at Olimpiyski stadium in Kiev, April 19, 2019. /Reuters Photo

"Now it is the turn of the new leadership of the country to understand and implement the aspirations of voters. Of course, this refers to both domestic and foreign policy of the country," Karasin was quoted by Sputnik news agency as saying.

Konstantin Kosachev, chairman of the Russian Federation Council's Foreign Affairs Committee, said that he sees no reason for Russia not to recognize the results of the presidential polls.

"I don't think it would be in the interests of our bilateral relations to follow the path of non-recognition of these elections and thus closing the doors to contacts with Ukraine's new authorities," Kosachev told Russiya-24 TV channel.

Congratulations also poured in from Europe and beyond, with French President Emmanuel Macron and Poland's Andrzej Duda congratulating the Ukrainian president-elect by phone.

Ukrainian presidential candidate, actor and comedian Volodymyr Zelensky meets with French President Emmanuel Macron at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, April 12, 2019. /Reuters Photo

Ukrainian presidential candidate, actor and comedian Volodymyr Zelensky meets with French President Emmanuel Macron at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, April 12, 2019. /Reuters Photo

"You will now truly be the Servant of the People," said British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt on Twitter, pledging London's support.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg and President of the European Council Donald Tusk said they looked forward to continuing support and cooperation.

"We congratulate President-elect Volodymyr Zelensky," the U.S. embassy in Ukraine said on Twitter.

(With inputs from agencies)