With 93% of the votes counted, it looks like Ukrainian comedian Volodymyr Zelenskiy is now almost certain to face incumbent Petro Poroshenko in the second presidential election round on April 21.
People vote at a polling station in Kyiv's downtown Podil area on March 31, 2019. Photo: Anastasia Vlasova / HROMADSKE
According to preliminary results (as of 8:30 pm Kyiv time), Zelenskiy has claimed 30.24% of the votes, nearly twice as much as Poroshenko (15.95%) and nearly 3 million more votes than Ukraine's former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko (who got 13.39% of the votes).
Hromadske has asked some journalists and experts who have been observing Ukraine on what they make of the first-round presidential elections results and whether tables can turn in the second round.
Peter Dickinson, nonresident fellow at the Atlantic Council, publisher of Business Ukraine and Lviv Today magazines:
Zelenskiy is a phenomenon that demonstrates how strong the desire for change [in Ukraine] has grown.
“I think Zelenskiy is a phenomenon that demonstrates how strong the desire for change has grown, that he’s obviously from outside of the establishment. His supporters geographically come from across Ukraine. So he bridges all of the gaps, all of the divides.
I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily so surprising but it’s still impressive, it’s still selling that incredible story.
[Whether Poroshenko has any chances to beat Zelenskiy in the second round] is the big question, of course. Normally I would say no, because the margin is so large, it’s almost twice, versus Poroshenko. However, there are a lot of people in my opinion, in my experience who don’t like Poroshenko and didn’t vote for him in the first round but will vote for him in the second round – because they will fear the uncertainty that Zelenskiy brings, this unknown candidate. Even if they don’t want to, because [Poroshenko is] this status quo candidate or the stability candidate, perhaps. He may win a lot more votes than he has already won. It also depends on what Zelenskiy does in the next two weeks. How he forms him camp as it’s not clear what role in the future constellation... He could name names and put people out who are going to be in his government. That could be a way to overcome those concerns over his lack of experience.
I don’t think we will see any drastic change [in the second round]. Zelenskiy may have reached the ceiling, there may not be that many more votes that Zelenskiy can get. I think we’ll have to do more analysis of the first round.
It all depends on… will Tymoshenko’s voters vote for him? I don’t know. Poroshenko will certainly get more votes. But will it be enough? It can be a very close call."
Kyiv-based writer Paul Niland:
The biggest victory yesterday was the advancement of democracy in Ukraine.
"The biggest victory yesterday was the advancement of democracy in Ukraine. Every one of my Ukrainian friends that I spoke to yesterday told me that they had voted or were going to.
Nobody can predict how the second round will turn out.
But the big news is that there were very few violations recorded, zero instances of ballot box stuffing, as far as I'm aware. The small news, because we knew this anyway but it's still noteworthy, that parties or people who represent the far right did poorly, confirming once again that the vast majority of Ukrainians reject such ideology."
StopFake.org cofounder Yevhen Fedchenko:
This will be the first time in the history of the country when Ukraine will have a prime minister and president, if Zelenskiy wins, both Jews.
"A very important point is the quality of democracy. That is, [people] in Ukraine constantly – including Western observer experts – complained that we have a very low quality of democracy. In fact, Ukraine has shown that it is one of the leaders in democracy. There was a huge number of candidates, among which there were 4 women. A person won who does not belong to the political elite at all.
Despite the fact that Ukraine has been accused of being anti-Semitic by many, we see a victory of a candidate who is Jewish. And this will be the first time in the history of the country as well, when Ukraine will have a prime minister and president, if Zelenskiy wins, both Jews.
The results [also] disproved the hysteria about the influence of the far-right on the political decision-making process. Again, judging from the percentage that Zelenskiy scored, we see what the real influence of these political forces is on the situation in the country. These are absolutely positive conclusions."
/By Maria Romanenko