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Big Win For Zelenskiy's Party In Ukraine Elections Solidifies Mandate For Change

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy

KYIV -- President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s Servant of the People party appears to have secured a majority in Ukraine's parliamentary elections, solidifying his mandate for change.

With 91 percent of the ballots counted early on July 23, the comedian-turned-president's party was in the lead in around 129 out of 199 constituencies.

It is also winning a majority on the party lists with 43.1 percent of the vote or 122 seats, according to preliminary results, well ahead of its nearest rival with just under 13 percent.

It would be for the first time in Ukraine's post-independence history that a party obtains a majority in the parliament -- the Verkhovna Rada.

Under Ukraine's mixed election system, half the Verkhovna Rada's seats are determined by votes on party lists and the rest are first-past-the-post constituency races.

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.

“With the presidency, parliament, prime minister, and cabinet now under his control, Volodymyr Zelensky will have little excuse for not pushing through a reform agenda to boost Ukraine’s deflated economy,” said Andy Hunder, president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Ukraine.

The European Union said the result of the elections provides Zelenskiy and his team with a strong mandate for reform.

"It is now the responsibility of the new authorities to meet the expectations of Ukraine's citizens," a spokeswoman for EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said late on July 22.

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 45 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.

Ex-President Petro Poroshenko's European Solidarity party got less than 9 percent of the vote, ex-Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko's populist Fatherland party polled 8 percent, and rock star Svyatoslav Vakarchuk's Holos (Voice) party received 6 percent.

They all appear to have passed the required 5 percent threshold for legislative seats.

Zelenskiy has said 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, 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.

In a preliminary statement, election monitors from the Organization for Cooperation and Security in Europe (OSCE), said that the elections "respected fundamental freedoms but were marred by malpractice and misuse of political finance."

With reporting by Ukrayinska Pravda, DPA, and Reuters
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