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Exit Polls Show 'Chocolate King' Winning Ukraine Presidential Election

With around 55 percent of the vote seemingly in the bag, the candy billionaire will likely avoid a second-round runoff.
Photo via AP

Exit polls today confirmed what was already known — that Petro Poroshenko, aka the “Chocolate King,” will almost certainly be Ukraine’s next president.

With around 55 percent of the vote seemingly in the bag, the candy billionaire will likely avoid a second-round runoff.

"The country has got a new president," Poroshenko told reporters at his election headquarters. "I would like to thank everyone for the support that the Ukraine has showed today for me and my team."


Former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko came in second with 12.9 percent of the vote according to national exit polls.

This weekend's election comes as a record number of voters turned out in Ukraine to cast their voting slips in an election billed as holding the potential to save the country which teeters on the brink of total disaster.

In the capital, some voters waited for more two hours to have their say in the future.

Ukraine decides on its next president. Read more here.

While the vote proceeded in a peaceful and orderly manner in most of the country, storm clouds and hail storms that reined down on Independence Square — the epicenter of the revolution that ousted former pro-Russia President Viktor Yanukovych — spoke to the country’s troubled east, few had the opportunity to make a trip to the polls.

Trouble at the Polls
Despite weeks of deadly clashes between pro-Russian militia, Ukrainian army, and other paramilitaries operating in the area, there was little election related violence in the eastern Ukraine’s Donbas on the voting day itself.

There was no need for it.

Across the two oblasts Luhansk and Donetsk, renamed by the rebels as “NovoRossia,” a campaign of violence and intimidation by the rebels had already done its job. The seizure of election materials and buildings, alongside the kidnap of political activists, had already paralyzed the vote from the inside out.

Inside a would-be polling station in Selidovo in eastern Ukraine, four empty ballot boxes told a striking and sad story of how Kiev has failed the country’s restive east.


On the door of the building hangs a homemade sign: “Dear Voters! The elections are postponed till the afternoon. Come we will be waiting for you.”

Here, despite hours of work to just get the polling station open, volunteers have not received the ballot papers from the central commission.

Standing in the dusty courtyard of the dilapidated Lenin Palace of Cultural in Selidovo, 40-year-old election volunteer Olga chatters nervously into her mobile phone.

“We’re doing everything we can," Olga told VICE News. "We're waiting for a miracle, it is hope that dies last.”

In Donetsk city, the region’s administrative center and the birthplace of the eastern rebels movement, no polling stations were able to open due to security concerns and an inability to get voting slips past the barricades ringing the militia held city.

The state’s inability to provide security to its voters and officials closed several more.

“We were ready to go and do our job we were just waiting for an instruction,” said Yelena, an artist and graphic designer who volunteered with her husband to oversee the vote. “But we had no stamps, no ballot papers, no security, so in the end we couldn’t do anything but stay home.”

A more than month long Kiev-backed anti-terrorism operation has failed to make substantial inroads into the rebel controlled areas, although, today there were at least some signs that it had at least managed to stop the separatists' reach to areas that previously wavered.


Nearly all the places where polling stations opened in the east today were behind Ukrainian army lines.

In Luhansk, which has been effectively partitioned by the army, no voting points were open in the rebel held south.

But in the north of the oblast, where election commissions and voting materials have been guarded by Ukrainian soldiers in the build-up to the vote the election went ahead without major disruption a security source told VICE News.

“There has been a big build-up of military here in the last few days and this seems to have secured the area, although there are some reports of more fighting in the east today” he added.

Who's Who in Ukraine's Elections: A 'Chocolate King,' Banker, Businessman and a 'Gas Princess.' Read more here.

But opening doors to voters was only a half victory. Turnout in the polling stations was incredibly low, around 14 percent, as many stayed home due to fear.

Dmitry was the only voter in the Volnovakha polling station VICE News visited this afternoon.

“My sister is sitting at home, she wanted to vote, but she’s to frightened,” said the 27-year old teacher who sent his wife and children away from the area two weeks ago.

“Many people are too scared to come here, they [the rebels] distributed leaflets warning that the faces of people who came here would be recorded,” 58-year-old election official, Tamara Sanzhanevskaya, told VICE News. “Turnout is around 10 percent” she added glumly.


But anger also kept people away from the polls. Support for the rebels in the region has only grown with every new assault by the army.

In Karlovka, just two days ago a fierce gun battle, just meters from residential houses, left dead and wounded lying in the village’s streets. The assault against a rebel checkpoint on the edge of the was launched by shadowy paramilitary groups, but their ties to the Ukrainian military, who after the assault they stood laughing and joking with at a checkpoint, understandably leave many locals pointing the finger at Kiev.

“Vote for what? For who, for fascists who send their soldiers here to kill us?” asked 33-year-old Yulia a resident of the village indignantly.

Here, several men dressed as troops from the Vostok Battalion, a Russian military unit based in Chechnya, fired rounds into the air in Donetsk.

For others, however, the issue is still far from clear-cut.

Back in Selidovo, Zita Topylina, 53, is the director of Lenin Palace. She makes everyone a cup of tea, her dog sleeps lazily on the floor.

“Do I look like a terrorist?” she asked. The plump and motherly Topylina said she participated in the rebel-held referendum but would like to vote again today.

The actions of the new government since it took power in February on the high of a revolution has driven many in the east into the arms of the rebels. None of the presidential candidates have made public appearances in the region since the unrest begun.

A clumsy military operation has resulted in civilian casualties. The narrative propagated by Kiev pivots on the fantasy idea of incognito Russian soldiers and terrorists. In other words, little has been to address the real fears and anger of citizens in the east.

“We just want to be heard,” Topylina told VICE News. “There are soldiers on my doorstep… it feels as though Ukraine doesn’t want me anymore” she adds offering her guests chocolate biscuits.

If Poroshenko is wise he will act swiftly and decisively to meet the demands of regular citizens such as Topylina. There is still a small window of opportunity to win the hearts and minds of at least some people in the east.

Speaking to VICE News at art-gallery soiree held in celebration of his victory, Poroshenko said that visiting the Donbas region and speaking with people would his be his first priority once he formally took office, although he also added, that there would be "no negotiations with the terrorist separatists" who he claimed were taking Ukraine towards a Somalia-like crisis.