JUST IN: Ukraine’s Poroshenko concedes defeat, congratulates comedian

Monday, 22 Apr, 2019

Ukrainian comedian, Volodymyr Zelensky has won presidential elections by over 70 percent of the vote, the exit polls indicated.

A comedian who plays an inexperienced president on Ukrainian TV looked poised to reprise the role in real life after an exit poll indicated he received almost three out of every four votes cast in a runoff election Sunday.

In a case of life imitating television, Mr Zelenskiy railed against corruption during the real campaign.

"I have grown up under the old politicians and have only seen empty promises, lies, and corruption", said Lyudmila Potrebko, a 22-year-old computer programmer who cast her ballot for Zelenskiy. He added that "we have united the country".

"Everything will be all right".

A second exit poll was expected at 3 pm ET.

The new president will face several challenges, including a Russian-backed insurgency in the east of the country.

"We're exhausted of all the lies", said Marta Semenyuk, 26, who cast her ballot for the comedian.

Poroshenko, a supporter of European Union membership who came to power in the aftermath of the country's 2013 pro-European Maidan protests, has spent his presidency entangled in an undeclared war with Ukraine's neighbor.

Zelenskiy said on Sunday he planned to continue European-backed talks with Russian Federation on a so far largely unimplemented peace deal and would try to free Ukrainians imprisoned in Russian Federation, which is holding 24 Ukrainian sailors among others.

But others doubt the showman will be able to take on the country's influential oligarchs, negotiate with the likes of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and stand up to Russia's Vladimir Putin.

Zelenskiy and Poroshenko faced off in a run-off vote to decide the country's next president on Sunday. "Cinema and reality are two different things".

In a last-ditch appeal, incumbent president Poroshenko told voters that handing the presidency to his opponent would put the very existence of Ukraine at risk. The team, he said, also compared notes with the 2020 campaign of President Trump - another outsider with zero political experience when elected.

But many feel like the country's ruling elite have forgotten the promises of the revolution.

Earlier on Sunday, Poroshenko had warned Ukrainians against taking a chance on Zelenskiy.

"Because this is not amusing".

"We're exhausted of all the lies", said Marta Semenyuk, 26, who cast her ballot for the comedian.

Instead, the comedian relied on social media and his television shows to reach voters.

Ukraine's president holds significant powers over the security, defence and foreign policy of the country.

Zelenskiy got twice as many votes as Poroshenko in the first round three weeks ago, reflecting public anger at endemic corruption, a moribund economy and a five-year wat against Russia-backed insurgents in the east.

Even before the release of any official returns in the two-man runoff, Poroshenko accepted defeat, saying, "I am leaving office, but I want to firmly underline that I am not leaving politics".

In central and southern regions, Zelensky won 70.3% and 85.4% of votes respectively.