KYIV - Servant of the People, the party of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, appears on course to win a parliamentary majority after some 44 percent of votes have been counted, according to data from the Central Election Commission.
The comedian-turned-president's party was in the lead in around 125 out of 199 constituencies in Ukraine, the data showed at 9:15 a.m (local time).
Zelenskiy's party also won a majority on the party lists with 42 percent of vote or 122 seats, according to preliminary results, well ahead of its nearest rival with just over 12 percent. If the result stands, it would be the first time in Ukraine's post-independence history that a party has obtained a majority in the parliament, the Verkhovna Rada.
Under Ukraine's mixed electoral system, half the Rada's seats are determined by votes on party lists and the rest are first-past-the-post races in local constituencies.
The latest results released by the election commission show the Servant of the People's main challenger, the pro-Russian Opposition Platform — For Life party, was in second place with 43 seats.
Voter turnout was nearly 50 percent in the July 21 snap parliamentary elections held three months ahead of schedule, the Opora election watchdog said, which also monitors polling violations.
Former President Petro Poroshenko’s European Solidarity party got less than 9 percent; ex-Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko's populist Fatherland party got 8.1 percent; and rock star Svyatoslav Vakarchuk's Holos party received 6.38 percent.
They all appear to have passed the required 5-percent threshold for legislative seats.
Break from establishment politicians
The strong result for Servant of the People, which was formed just a few months ago, underscores Ukrainians' desire for a break with established politicians and parties that have failed to improve living standards enough. It also gives Zelenskiy — who won the presidency in April in a landslide victory — more power in choosing outsiders to occupy key government positions.
“The bottom line is that Zelenskiy — between the presidential and the Rada [parliamentary] elections — has put himself in a position for serious reform if that is what he chooses to do,” John Herbst, a former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, told RFE/RL after the exit polls.
Zelenskiy told supporters at his party’s campaign headquarters that one of his main priorities will be “to defeat the corruption that continues to persist in Ukraine."
Graft has for years stifled economic growth in the Eastern European country.
However, questions remain about how willing Zelenskiy is to break from the oligarch-and-backroom-deals tradition of politicking in Ukraine.
Zelenskiy’s ties to one of the country’s wealthiest men, Ihor Kolomoyskiy, has worried reformers and some Western supporters. Zelenskiy’s chief of staff previously worked as Kolomoyskiy’s lawyer.
However, Ambassador Herbst said Zelenskiy's choice of reformers to fill crucial positions at the State Customs Service and Ukroboronoprom, the military conglomerate, bodes well for fighting corruption.