The field was massive: 39 candidates. The results were unpredictable: Three leading candidates, including the incumbent president, were vying for two spots in a runoff, and few pundits claimed to know who would be the odd man -- or woman -- out. But one thing was clear as Ukrainians turned out to vote on Sunday: The next president will maintain an anti-Russian stance that continues to look westward, toward some kind of European integration for the post-Soviet nation of 43 million. The top candidate, according to polls, was Volodymyr Zelensky, a comedic actor who stars in a popular sitcom about a schoolteacher who becomes president and stands up to the country's political elite. But his platform and agenda for ending the country's war in the east against Russian-backed separatist rebels remain unclear, as does his plan for ending Ukraine's endemic corruption.
Kiev, Ukraine - Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko has accused comic Volodymyr Zelensky, his opponent and the frontrunner in an upcoming presidential vote runoff, of being an oligarch's puppet. In a Facebook post published on Monday, Poroshenko linked Zelensky's success in the polls on Sunday to the work of the "Kremlin agents" and oligarch Ihor Kolomoisky, who owns the TV channel that airs Zelensky's sitcom series. "I begin the struggle for winning in the second round," he declared. According to the official vote count published by Ukraine's Central Election Commission (CEC), Zelensky secured about 30 percent of the votes, Poroshenko - about 16 percent. Voter turnout was above 63 percent, the CEC said.
Both are defined by competition in the public arena, by the spectacle of rivalry. Ukraine would seem to be closer to realizing that truth than others. Petro Poroshenko, the country's president and a candidate in the run-off that will be held on Sunday, took his second drug test within just a few days in preparation for a public debate with challenger Volodymyr Zelensky. The debate is to take place this Saturday in front of 70,000 spectators at Kiev's Olympic Stadium -- though most of the details are still unclear. If it does end up taking place, it will be an appropriate ending to what has been a truly bizarre campaign. Foreign observers have watched in fascination as Ukraine tries to decide who will lead the country for the next four years.
Faced with the strong possibility of being trounced by a comedian with no political experience, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has started throwing Hail Marys. In the week leading up to this Sunday's election, the 53-year-old president awkwardly performed a folk song on stage. He promised young voters he'd hire more of them in his next administration. And he apologized for past mistakes and met with civil society leaders to say he'd listen more if given another chance. In what appeared to be a direct response to accusations from his opponent -- Volodymyr Zelensky -- that he did nothing to battle the country's endemic corruption, Poroshenko appointed 38 judges to the country's new anti-corruption court in one fell swoop.
Kiev, Ukraine - Ukrainians are voting in Ukraine's presidential runoff poll between anti-establishment political novice Volodymyr Zelensky and incumbent President Petro Poroshenko. Sunday's election has about 35 million eligible voters, but several million in Russian-annexed Crimea and rebel-held parts of eastern Ukraine are either unable or unwilling to cast their ballots. The polling stations will close at 8pm (1700 GMT). An early count is expected overnight on Monday. The opinion polls predict a humiliating defeat for Poroshenko, who came to power five years ago with 55 percent support after a deadly pro-West uprising removed his Russia-backed predecessor Viktor Yanukovich in 2014.