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Ukrainians Vote in Presidential Election

A local resident casts a vote into a mobile ballot box inside a house during a presidential election in the village of Zahiria in Lviv Region, Ukraine, March 31, 2019.

The polls have opened and voters in Ukraine are casting their ballots Sunday in the first round of the country's presidential election.

The top three of the 39 candidates are: a comedian who plays the role of the president in a television comedy series, the incumbent president, and a former prime minister, who is running for president for the third time.

Volodymyr Zelenskiy is seeking to prove life can indeed imitate art. He is the protagonist of a long-running popular series called the “Servant of the People” in which he plays a teacher who unexpectedly finds himself president after a student posts on YouTube one of his rants denouncing the elite.

President Petro Poroshenko has the support of just 13.7 percent of the voters, according to a recent poll by the Kiev International Institute of Sociology. The 53-year-old billionaire dubbed the chocolate king because of his confectionery business has been accused by opponents of running schemes to buy votes, especially in small towns where the pull of political paternalism is strong.

Yulia Tymoshenko became Ukraine's prime minister after the 2004 Orange Revolution. She was arrested in 2011, charged with abusing power in a natural gas deal. She was released in 2014 and ran for president, but lost to Poroshenko.

None of the candidates is expected to win a majority of the vote in the first round. The top two winners in Sunday’s vote will face off in a second round of voting.