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Incumbent Ukrainian president pleads for support as comedian looks set to win the presidency

In a televised address the incumbent pleaded with voters to support him.

Zelensky stock photo
Zelensky stock photo
Image: Shutterstock/Review News

A COMEDIAN AND actor looks set to become the next president of Ukraine after topping the polls, leaving the incumbent making a televised plea for public votes. 

Ukrainian leader Petro Poroshenko begged for forgiveness and a second chance today as polls showed him being defeat three days ahead of a presidential vote.

In a televised address, Poroshenko pleaded with voters to support him over Volodymyr Zelensky, a comedian with no political experience who has surged ahead in the polls.

“I once again ask you to forgive me. What did not work out hurts the most,” Poroshenko said.

Polls show Zelensky, a 41-year-old stand up comic and television star, sailing to victory in Sunday’s second-round vote. 

The latest survey on Thursday showed him winning 73% of the vote against only 27% for Poroshenko.

His rise has stunned Ukraine’s political elite, who have struggled to revive the economy, root out corruption and put an end to a war with Moscow-backed separatists in the country’s east.

Poroshenko, has cast himself as the only Ukrainian politician who can take on Russia’s Vladimir Putin and settle the war, which has claimed 13,000 lives.

Conflict

He said because of the conflict with Russia it would be “very risky to experiment with the post of the president and commander-in-chief”.

He also warned that Ukraine risked defaulting on its debt after a Kiev court ruled that his government’s 2016 decision to nationalise the country’s biggest lender was illegal.

Poroshenko said a default would mean “tens of millions” of people would lose their money and suggested the ruling was linked with Zelensky’s campaign. 

He called an emergency meeting of his security council, while Kiev’s international partners including the EU, Washington and the World Bank said in coordinated statements they were closely monitoring the situation.

Ukraine’s government has spent billions on recapitalising the lender to cover the losses caused by the withdrawal of money from the bank and poorly-secured loans.

Supporters credit Poroshenko, who took power in 2014 after a popular uprising ousted a Kremlin-backed leader, with implementing important economic reforms, rebuilding the army, securing an Orthodox Church independent of Russia and winning visa-free travel to Europe.

Zelensky, however, has seized on continued economic hardship and corruption, as well as his popularity as the star of sitcom Servant of the People, where he plays a school teacher who becomes a president.

A presidential debate scheduled in a 70,000-seat arena tomorrow – the first and only one of the presidential campaign. 

“Preparations for the debate are in full swing. You will see the results tomorrow,” a Zelensky spokeswoman said. 

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