Political test for Zelensky as Ukraine heads to parliamentary polls
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (C) leaves a voting booth with a ballot while his wife Olena (R) waits, at a polling station in Kiev, Ukraine, 21 July 2019. EFE/EPA/STEPAN FRANKO
A serviceman of the presidential regiment leaves a voting booth at a polling station during the parliamentary election, in Kiev, Ukraine, July 21, 2019. EFE-EPA/SERGII KHARCHENKO
Ukrainians receive their ballots at a polling station during the parliamentary elections, in Kiev, Ukraine, July 21, 2019. EFE-EPA/SERGEY DOLZHENKO
A member of an election committee prepares a polling station, near Kiev, Ukraine, July 20, 2019. EFE-EPA/SERGEY DOLZHENKO
Petro Poroshenko (C), former President and leader of the 'European Solidarity' political party, speaks to reporters at a polling station during parliamentary elections, in Kiev, Ukraine, 21 July 2019.EFE/EPA/SERGEY DOLZHENKO
Yulia Tymoshenko, the leader of the 'Batkivshchyna' ('Fatherland') political party, casts her ballot at a polling station during parliamentary elections in Kiev, Ukraine, 21 July 2019. EFE/EPA/SERGEY DOLZHENKO
Kiev, Jul 21 (efe-epa).- Ukraine is on Sunday voting in parliamentary elections billed as the first political litmus test for the country's newly-elected president, Volodymyr Zelensky, who needs to bag enough seats to pursue his ambitious program of reforms.
Zelensky, a former comic actor in the hit TV series Servant of the People in which — in an incredible case of fiction becoming reality — he played a teacher who becomes president, is hedging his bets on his affiliated political party, also called Servant of the People, which is widely tipped to win.
Casting his own vote in the capital Kiev, Zelensky, 41, said it was time to lift political immunity to those sitting in the Verkhovna Rada, the country's parliament, adding that his proposed candidate for prime minister would not be a politician but rather an economist.
"You already know who is going to win," he told journalists at the polling station. "Ukrainians have the final say, I think it will be a fair and clean election."
Zelensky dissolved parliament and called elections as soon as he was sworn into office on May 20.
Three months after the presidential elections, then, and for the third time so far this year, nearly 30 million eligible Ukrainian voters have been called to the polls.
Voting at almost 30,000 polling stations across the country and will run for 12 hours, according to the Central Election Commission (CEC).
Exit polls are expected immediately after polls close, while the vote count will begin at 11 pm. The CEC plans to release the first official results early Monday.
Other political parties are now in a tight race to split the rest of the votes.
According to the latest surveys of government polling organization, Rating, the pro-Russian Opposition Platform - For Life, is in second place with 10.5 percent.
The other three parties in the battle for power are former president Petro Poroshenko's European Solidarity (7.7 percent), former prime minister Yulia Timoshenko's Batkivschina or Fatherland (6.9 percent) and Golos or Voice led by musician Sviatoslav Vakarchuk (5.9 percent).
If Zelensky's party manages to secure more than 50 percent of the votes, it would be the first party to govern alone since the country's independence in 1991.
However, the party may fall short and may need to form a coalition to approve key issues for Ukraine.
The Servant of the People is considering possible alliances with the Golos and Batkivschina.
More than 2,000 international observers, mostly from Europe, and more than 100 non-profits are overseeing the elections.
Russia is not part of the observation operation since Kiev considers its neighbor an aggressor and an occupying state.
One of the foremost challenges for Ukraine's political top brass is the ongoing war in the country's eastern regions, where pro-Russian rebels have carved out two self-proclaimed republics centered around Donetsk and Luhansk.
Over 10,000 people have been killed since the conflict erupted in 2014, according to the United Nations.
Another major issue is the fate of Crimea, which Russia annexed that same year following Ukraine's pro-European revolution.EFE-EPA