Ukraine election: President Zelensky’s party triumphs – exit polls

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Media captionZelensky: Snap poll ‘more important’ than presidential vote

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s party is set to convincingly win a snap parliamentary election, consolidating his political power.

Exit polls suggest the Servant of the People party will have a majority in parliament – but will need a coalition partner to form a government.

Mr Zelensky triumphed April’s presidential poll – but has been unable to appoint the ministers he wants.

He has pledged to implement radical reforms and tackle rampant corruption.

Speaking outside a polling station after casting his ballot in Kiev earlier on Sunday, Mr Zelensky told the BBC’s Steve Rosenberg that the snap election was “maybe more important than the presidential election”.

Polling stations across Ukraine closed at 20:00 local time (17:00 GMT), and first official results are expected within several hours.

What do exit polls say?

They say the Servant of the People will have about 44% of the vote, far more than each of the other four parties predicted to have cleared the 5% threshold to enter parliament.

Speaking in Kiev after the polls closed, President Zelensky said he was inviting a party led by rock star Svyatoslav Vakarchuk to hold talks on forming a coalition.

“This was my initiative even before the election,” Mr Zelensky said.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Svyatoslav Vakarchuk, lead singer of the popular band Okean Elzy, also heads the Holos party

Mr Vakarchuk’s Holos (The Voice) party is projected to win about 6% of the vote.

The pro-Russian Opposition Platform – For Life party is currently in second place with about 12% of the vote. However, Mr Zelensky has ruled out any coalition with it.

The other two parties projected to enter parliament are former President Petro Poroshenko’s European Solidarity (about 9%) and Batkivshchyna (Fatherland) led by former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko (about 8%).

Mr Zelensky needs support from the Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine’s parliament. The victorious party or coalition will form a government and nominate a prime minister.

The president told our correspondent that the “president, prime minister and parliament have to work together, just to make life happy for Ukraine”.

He said the key issues were investment, democracy and safety.

The comedian president

Mr Zelensky was known for his comic role on TV as a teacher who wins the heart of the nation and becomes president after his expletive-laden rant about politics goes viral.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Petro Poroshenko’s party was rebranded European Solidarity to remove his name

In reality, his route to the leadership was a bit more conventional than in his show – but only a bit.

After shunning rallies and speeches and openly admitting he didn’t have any strong political views, he scored a landslide victory in April and unseated Mr Poroshenko, a political heavyweight.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Zhan Beleniuk, an Olympic wrestler, is standing in the elections for Mr Zelensky’s party Servant of the People

The election was widely expected to give Mr Zelensky a greater mandate for reform, sweeping aside the old guard and bringing new faces to parliament.

One of the candidates for Servant of the People, for example, is Zhan Beleniuk, an Olympic wrestler who wants to become Ukraine’s first mixed-race MP.

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