Comedian Vladimir Zelensky is leading in exit polls in the presidential election in Ukraine with over 30% of the vote, according to exit polls. The runner-up is incumbent president President Petro Poroshenko with 17.8 %.

Zelensky, a newcomer in politics, campaigned on an anti-corruption platform and the image of a character (the Ukrainian president) he played in a popular satirical TV show, ‘Servant of the People’. Critics say he is just a figurehead for tycoon Igor Kolomoisky, an allegation that both vehemently deny.

Comedian Vladimir Zelensky

The leader of the presidential race, Zelensky, has expressed his gratitude to those Ukrainians who voted “not just for the crack,” as he put it.

Poroshenko’s campaign is focused on the promise that one day Ukraine will join the EU and NATO, an aspiration that was enshrined in the Ukrainian constitution during his first term. He also presents himself as a staunch nationalist, as he has proposed restricting the use of the Russian language in Ukraine to promote Ukrainian, and has expressed his support for the newly-formed Orthodox Church of Ukraine, which the Russian Orthodox Church sees as a revolutionary force.

Yulia Tymoshenko, a veteran of Ukrainian politics, is in third place with slightly over 14 percent. While the official data suggests otherwise, Tymoshenko has claimed that she scored second and will be in the second round of the elections, accusing the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) of interfering in the polls.

She served as prime minister twice and spent three years in prison under Poroshenko’s predecessor – which she insists was political persecution. Her main message is the promise of better living standards and a lower cost of living.

If neither of the candidates gets 50 percent plus one vote, a second round will be held on April 19 between the top two candidates. 

The Interior Ministry received some 1,900 complaints about alleged violations and launched 31 criminal cases have been launched in response. The election commission, however, said no significant abuses have happened.