Kiev, March 31 (IANS) Polling was underway on Sunday in Ukraine for the first round of the country’s presidential election.
If no candidate gets more than 50 per cent in the Sunday vote, the top two contenders will fight it out in a second round on April 21, the BBC reported.
A total of 39 candidates are in the fray, but only the three front-runners are considered to have any chance of victory.
Incumbent President Petro Poroshenko is seeking re-election but the surprise front runner is comedian Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
Zelenskiy, 41, is aiming to turn his satirical TV show in which he portrays an ordinary citizen who becomes President after fighting corruption, into reality.
He is seen as appealing to younger voters. His campaign has made extensive use of social media.
Poroshenko, 53, aims to appeal to conservative Ukrainians through his slogan “Army, Language, Faith”.
During his tenure the Ukrainian Orthodox Church became independent of Russian control. However, his campaign has been dogged by corruption allegations, including a scandal over defence procurement, which erupted in February.
The third contender is Yulia Tymoshenko, 58, who has served as prime minister and ran for President in 2010 and 2014. She played a leading role in the 2004 Orange Revolution – Ukraine’s first big push to ally itself with the European Union (EU).
None of the pro-Russian candidates are seen as serious contenders.
Poroshenko has significant powers over security, defence and foreign policy and the former Soviet Republic’s system is described as semi-presidential.
The next President will inherit a deadlocked conflict between Ukrainian troops and Russian-backed separatists in the east, while Ukraine strives to fulfil EU’s requirements for closer economic ties.
Separatist-controlled areas are boycotting the election.