KIEV/DONETSK: Confectionery magnate Petro Poroshenko won Ukraine’s presidential election yesterday with an absolute majority, exit polls showed, averting the need for a runoff vote next month that he had said could destabilise the country.
Two polls gave Poroshenko, a billionaire businessman with long experience in government, 55.9 to 57.3 percent, well ahead of former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko in second place with just over 12 percent. If confirmed by results today, there will be no need for a runoff vote on June 15.
Ukrainians, weary of six months of political turmoil, hope their new president will be able to pull their country of 45 million people back from the brink of bankruptcy, dismemberment and civil war.
But, highlighting the scale of the challenge facing Poroshenko, armed pro-Russian separatists barred people from voting in much of Ukraine’s Donbass industrial heartland yesterday, turning the main city of Donetsk into a ghost town. Poroshenko, 48, has promised closer economic and political ties with the West in defiance of Russian President Vladimir Putin, but he will also have to try to mend shattered relations with Ukraine’s giant northern neighbour, which provides most of its natural gas and is the major market for its exports.
Yesterday’s election marked the culmination of a revolution that erupted last November, forced a pro-Russian president to flee in February and spiralled into an existential crisis when Moscow responded by declaring its right to invade Ukraine.
The pro-Moscow separatists have proclaimed independent “people’s republics” in the provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk and blocked voting there as that would imply they were still part of Ukraine. Nor was any vote held in Crimea, which Russia annexed in March after the overthrow of President Viktor Yanukovich.
Ukrainian officials hailed a high voter turnout in much of the sprawling country but said only about 20 percent of polling stations in the two restive eastern regions had functioned.Reuters