Sun | May 26, 2019

Comedian takes landslide victory in Ukraine

Published:Monday | April 22, 2019 | 12:31 AM
Ukrainian comedian and presidential candidate Volodymyr Zelenskiy, and his wife Olena Zelenska congratulate each other at his headquarters after the second round of presidential elections in Kiev, Ukraine, Sunday, April 21, 2019. Ukrainians voted on Sunday in a presidential runoff as the nation’s incumbent leader struggles to fend off a strong challenge by a comedian who denounces corruption and plays the role of president in a TV sitcom. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko casts his ballot as his grandson Petro, looks at the ballot at a polling station, during the second round of presidential elections in Kiev, Ukraine, Sunday, April 21, 2019. Top issues in the election have been corruption, the economy and how to end the conflict with Russia-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
A Ukrainian government soldier demonstrates his ballot at a polling station, during the second round of presidential elections near a front line in Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine, Sunday, April 21, 2019. Top issues in the election have been corruption, the economy and how to end the conflict with Russia-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko helps his wife Maryna to leave a booth at a polling station, during the second round of presidential elections in Kiev, Ukraine, Sunday, April 21, 2019. Top issues in the election have been corruption, the economy and how to end the conflict with Russia-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
Ukrainian comedian and presidential candidate Volodymyr Zelenskiy, center left, and his Olena Zelenska, second right, arrive at a polling station, during the second round of presidential elections in Kiev, Ukraine, Sunday, April 21, 2019. Top issues in the election have been corruption, the economy and how to end the conflict with Russia-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
An Orthodox priest casts his ballot at a polling station, during the second round of presidential elections in Kiev, Ukraine, Sunday, April 21, 2019. Top issues in the election have been corruption, the economy and how to end the conflict with Russia-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
A dog looks out of a voting cabin as a man casts his vote during the second round of presidential elections in Kiev, Ukraine, Sunday, April 21, 2019. Top issues in the election have been corruption, the economy and how to end the conflict with Russia-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)
A woman leaves a booth at a polling station, during the second round of presidential elections in Kiev, Ukraine, Sunday, April 21, 2019. Top issues in the election have been corruption, the economy and how to end the conflict with Russia-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko gestures while speaking to the media at a polling station, during the second round of presidential elections in Kiev, Ukraine, Sunday, April 21, 2019. Top issues in the election have been corruption, the economy and how to end the conflict with Russia-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and his wife Maryna cast their ballots as their grandson Petro, looks at the ballot at a polling station, during the second round of presidential elections in Kiev, Ukraine, Sunday, April 21, 2019. Top issues in the election have been corruption, the economy and how to end the conflict with Russia-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
Ukrainian comedian and presidential candidate Volodymyr Zelenskiy, center, leaves a booth at a polling station as his wife Olena Zelenska waits during the second round of presidential elections in Kiev, Ukraine, Sunday, April 21, 2019. Top issues in the election have been corruption, the economy and how to end the conflict with Russia-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)
Ukrainian comedian and presidential candidate Volodymyr Zelenskiy, center, leaves a booth at a polling station during the second round of presidential elections in Kiev, Ukraine, Sunday, April 21, 2019. Top issues in the election have been corruption, the economy and how to end the conflict with Russia-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)
Ukrainian comedian and presidential candidate Volodymyr Zelenskiy leaves a booth at a polling station during the second round of presidential elections in Kiev, Ukraine, Sunday, April 21, 2019. Top issues in the election have been corruption, the economy and how to end the conflict with Russia-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)
Ukrainian comedian and presidential candidate Volodymyr Zelenskiy, center right, and his Olena Zelenska, center left, leave a polling station after voting during the second round of presidential elections in Kiev, Ukraine, Sunday, April 21, 2019. Top issues in the election have been corruption, the economy and how to end the conflict with Russia-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko gestures while speaking to the media as her wife Maryna stands next to him, at a polling station, during the second round of presidential elections in Kiev, Ukraine, Sunday, April 21, 2019. Top issues in the election have been corruption, the economy and how to end the conflict with Russia-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and his wife Maryna cross themselves during Orthodox Palm Sunday mass in the St. Michael's Monastery in Kiev, Ukraine, Sunday, April 21, 2019. Top issues in the election have been corruption, the economy and how to end the conflict with Russia-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine. (Mykola Lazarenko, Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Pool Photo via AP)
Ukrainian presidential candidate and popular comedian Volodymyr Zelenskiy, left, and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko participate in their final electoral campaign debate at the Olympic stadium in Kiev, Ukraine, Friday, April 19, 2019. Friday is the last official day of election canvassing in Ukraine as all presidential candidates and their campaigns will be barred from campaigning on Saturday, the day before the vote. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, left, and Ukrainian presidential candidate and popular comedian Volodymyr Zelenskiy, right, argue their debates at the Olympic stadium in Kiev, Ukraine, Friday, April 19, 2019. Friday is the last official day of election canvassing in Ukraine as all presidential candidates and their campaigns will be barred from campaigning on Saturday, the day before the vote.(AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)
A man leaves a booth at a polling station during the second round of presidential elections in Kiev, Ukraine, Sunday, April 21, 2019. Top issues in the election have been corruption, the economy and how to end the conflict with Russia-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
Ukrainian comedian and presidential candidate Volodymyr Zelenskiy, center right, congratulates each other at his headquarters after the second round of presidential elections in Kiev, Ukraine, Sunday, April 21, 2019. Ukrainians voted on Sunday in a presidential runoff as the nation's incumbent leader struggles to fend off a strong challenge by a comedian who denounces corruption and plays the role of president in a TV sitcom. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)
Ukrainian comedian and presidential candidate Volodymyr Zelenskiy, and his wife Olena Zelenska greet their supporters at his headquarters after the second round of presidential elections in Kiev, Ukraine, Sunday, April 21, 2019. Ukrainians voted on Sunday in a presidential runoff as the nation's incumbent leader struggles to fend off a strong challenge by a comedian who denounces corruption and plays the role of president in a TV sitcom. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
Ukrainian comedian and presidential candidate Volodymyr Zelenskiy, and his wife Olena Zelenska, right, greet their supporters at his headquarters after the second round of presidential elections in Kiev, Ukraine, Sunday, April 21, 2019. Ukrainians voted on Sunday in a presidential runoff as the nation's incumbent leader struggles to fend off a strong challenge by a comedian who denounces corruption and plays the role of president in a TV sitcom. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)
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KIEV, Ukraine (AP)

A comedian whose only political experience consists of playing a president on TV appeared poised to reprise the role in real life when an exit poll showed him winning Ukraine’s presidential runoff Sunday in a landslide.

Results from the exit poll after voting stations closed showed Volodymyr Zelenskiy receiving an extraordinary 73.2 per cent — or nearly three out of every four votes cast — to President Petro Poroshenko’s 25.3 per cent.

If borne out by election returns, the overwhelming victory by Zelenskiy would stand as a crushing rebuke to Poroshenko’s five years in office and a verdict on the country’s deep-seated corruption, sickly economy and grinding war against Russian-backed separatists in the country’s east that has killed over 13,000 people.

While official returns had yet to be released, Poroshenko accepted defeat, saying: “I am leaving office, but I want to firmly underline that I am not leaving politics.”

Zelenskiy, for his part, vowed after the release of the exit polls: “I promise I will never let you down.” And he suggested that his apparent victory could be a model for other former Soviet states that want to move forward from ossified politics.