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A Dark Force (Re)Awakens As Darth Vader Seeks Ukrainian Parliament Seat

It's unclear whether this is the same Darth Vader who tried to run for mayor of Odesa in 2013 and 2015, as well as president of Ukraine in 2014.

KYIV -- A dark force has entered Ukraine's parliamentary race and come July 21, voters in Odesa's district No. 135 will come face-to-face with it.

Staring back at them from the ballot will be a name full of menace: Darth Vader.

Well, actually, Darth Viktorovych Vader: Like the other candidates, this one's patronymic will be on the ballot.

On the heels of his landslide election victory in April, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy dissolved parliament and called early elections. The Constitutional Court ruled the president's move legal earlier this month.

Little is known about Vader -- which is a legal name but one that is believed to have been adopted later in life, and if transliterated from Ukrainian to English would in fact read Dart Veyder. The male patronymic indicates that the candidate is a man, not a woman.

According to biographical information provided to the Central Election Commission to complete his registration for a parliamentary run, Vader was born in Kyiv on October 4, 1987 -- not so long ago and not far, far away -- and has been a resident of Kyiv for at least the past five years. A couple of his qualifications: a higher education and no criminal record.

Currently, Vader is director of Dark Side of the Force, a mysterious limited liability company that open data analyzed by RFE/RL shows was registered in Kyiv's Obolon district in 2015 with 10,000 hryvnyas ($380) in authorized capital.

Nominated by his political party, the Darth Vader Bloc, his political positions and true identity remain concealed behind his masked helmet and black cape.

If Darth Viktorovych Vader wins, it may or may not be a case of the empire strikes back: It's unclear whether this is the same Darth Vader who tried to run for mayor of Odesa in 2013 and 2015, as well as president of Ukraine in 2014. The Vader who ran in Odesa in 2015 went by the name and patronymic of Darth Mykolayovych.

This Vader or another also headed the party list of the Internet Party of Ukraine in October 2014 elections but failed to win enough votes to enter parliament.

Ukraine's 450-seat parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, is elected through a mix of voting by party list and in single-mandate districts where candidates compete against one another directly.

Polls have suggested that Zelenskiy's Servant of the People party could win about 48 percent in the party-list vote and achieve a similar result in the district races.

In Odesa's district No. 135, Vader won't go up against a Servant of the People candidate but appears to be a long shot nonetheless. His 21 rivals for the seat include candidates from the parties of rock star Svyatoslav Vakarchuk, former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, and former President Petro Poroshenko.

But it might be unfair to count Darth Viktorovych out: After all, Ukrainians have shown their desire for new faces in the presidential election and in surveys ahead of the parliamentary vote.