Comedian and political novice Volodymyr Zelensky was the top vote getter, ahead of incumbent president Petro Poroshenko, in Ukraine's first round of presidential elections, according to exit polls Sunday, leading the two candidates into a run-off election.
Zelensky, a comedian who plays the role of the president in a television comedy series, was projected to win 30.4 percent of the vote, easily beating Poroshenko, in power since 2014, who earned 17.8 percent, according to the Central Election Commission's report as of 6pm.
If no candidate wins more than half of the votes, the election will proceed to a run-off to be held on April 21.
"This is only the first step toward a great victory," Zelensky told reporters after the initial results were released.
Zelenskiy is seeking to prove life can indeed imitate art. He in 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 had the support of just 13.7 percent of the voters, according to a pre-election poll by the Kyiv 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.