Early exit polls show that pro-European candy tycoon Petro Poroshenko won the Ukrainian election on Sunday, as he vowed “to bring peace to the Ukrainian land.”
Preliminary results with more than three quarters of votes counted gave Ukraine’s “Chocolate King” 54 percent of the vote, beating his closest rival, former premier Yulia Tymoshenko, secured just 13.1 percent and made clear she would concede.
The 48-year-old billionaire said his first steps as president would be to visit the Donbass eastern industrial region, where pro-Russia separatists have seized government buildings and battled government troops in weeks of fighting. Poroshenko also said the Kiev government would like to negotiate a new security treaty with Moscow.
“Today we can definitely say all of Ukraine has voted, this is a national vote,” he said from his campaign headquarters shortly after the exit polls were announced. “The first steps that we will take at beginning of presidential office should be focused on stopping the war, to put an end to this chaos and bring peace to a united Ukraine.”
While Kiev alongside with other Western regions were voting, separatists had tried to block voting in some eastern areas, including the self-declared People’s Republic of Donetsk. The incomplete nature of voting in the east raised concerns about the poll’s legitimacy.
Nevertheless, the Ukraine’s new President has already promised to hold parliamentary elections before the end of the year. “When there is a parliamentarian crisis, the only solution in a democracy is early elections,” said the new leader.
Poroshenko replaces Viktor Yanukovych, who topped in a February coup, which resulted into Russia’s annexation of Crimea and violent clashes between pro-Moscow separatists and pro-Western groups across the country.
Russian President Putin has promised to “respect the choice of the Ukrainian people” and said he would work with the winner, in an apparent bid to ease Russia’s worst crisis with the West since the Cold War and avoid a new round of Western sanctions. The interim Kiev government and the West have accused Russia of backing the separatist uprising. Moscow has denied the accusations, says the Huff Post.
Meanwhile, US President Barack Obama hailed the election as an “important step forward in the efforts of the Ukrainian government to unify the country”. U.S. House Foreign Affairs Chairman Ed Royce, R-Calif., called the election “a clear victory for Ukrainian democracy and a big setback to Vladimir Putin’s efforts to divide the country.”
Former premier Yulia Tymoshenko, divisive heroine of the 2004 Orange Revolution, praised the courage of the voters, saying:
“I would like to congratulate Ukraine with the fact that despite the current aggression by the Kremlin and the desire to break this voting, the election happened and was democratic and fair,” said Tymoshenko, who spent 2 ½ years in prison on abuse of office charges. “I think this is the evidence of the strength of our nation.”
As Forbes says, Poroshenko has proved himself a cool-headed leader and businessman in the way he created his Roshen chocolate company. He built the confectionary business up from a humble start as a cocoa bean seller, eventually accumulating a $1.3 billion fortune.