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Ukraine’s Zelensky aims to bolster power in parliamentary polls

Zelensky votes

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EPA

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Mr Zelensky won a landslide victory in April’s presidential election

Polls have opened in Ukraine, with voters electing a new parliament.

Volodymyr Zelensky became president in a landslide victory in April but says he has so far been unable to appoint the ministers he wants.

The ex-TV star hopes this election, which he called quickly after being sworn in, will consolidate his power and give a greater mandate for reform.

Mr Zelensky’s Servant of the People party – named after the TV show he starred in – is expected to do well.

Polls suggest the second-most popular party is the pro-Russian Opposition Platform – For Life, and that it’s set to pick up votes in the east.

However, Mr Zelensky has ruled out working with it should he need to form a coalition.

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EPA

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A candidate list is prepared in the village of Ivankovychi near Kiev

Instead he would rather partner with Holos (The Voice) – another new party led by rock star Svyatoslav Vakarchuk, the lead singer of the popular band Okean Elzy.

The president needs to share power with the Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine’s parliament, which will form a government and nominate a prime minister.

The BBC’s Ukraine correspondent, Jonah Fisher, says a strong showing for Mr Zelensky’s party will give him the power to do pretty much as he wishes, if not he could have a long and frustrating five years in office.

The comedian president

Mr Zelensky was known for his comic role on TV as a teacher who wins the heart of the nation and becomes president after his expletive-laden rant about politics goes viral.

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EPA

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Svyatoslav Vakarchuk is the lead singer of Okean Elzy and the leader of Holos party

In reality, his route to the leadership was a bit more conventional than in his show – but only a bit.

After shunning official rallies and speeches, demanding his opponent take a drug test and openly admitting he didn’t have any strong political views, he scored a landslide victory in April and unseated the former political heavyweight, Petro Poroshenko.

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AFP

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Zhan Beleniuk, an Olympic wrestler, is standing in the elections for Mr Zelensky’s party Servant of the People

Now Mr Zelensky hopes to make waves again this weekend by sweeping aside the old guard and bringing in fresh blood.

One of the candidates for Servant of the People, for example, is Zhan Beleniuk, an Olympic wrestler who wants to become Ukraine’s first mixed-race MP.

Mr Poroshenko, meanwhile, is still hoping for victory this weekend.

However, his party – rebranded European Solidarity to remove his name – is currently polling at about 8%, just over the 5% threshold needed to enter parliament.

Ukraine’s Zelensky aims to bolster power in parliamentary polls

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