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Zelenskiy's party in spotlight as Ukraine holds snap parliament election

  • 20 Jul 2019

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy dissolved the Verkhovna Rada during his swearing-in ceremony in May, triggering snap polls.

A volunteer holds electoral materials in support of the Servant of the People party led by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy during an event ahead of the parliamentary election in Kiev, Ukraine July 18, 2019. ( Reuters )

Polls opened on Sunday for Ukraine's snap parliamentary election that could consolidate the power of new President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and hand the novice politician a stronger mandate for driving change in the war-scarred nation.

Zelenskiy dissolved the parliament, Verkhovna Rada, in May following his election as a new president.

The Ukrainian Central Election Commission has registered lists of nominees from 22 political parties, and 24,747 nominees in total.

3,084 more candidates are expected to compete in 199 single-mandate districts.

TRT World's Aksel Zaimovic reports from Kiev.

Polls are not being held in Crimea, annexed by Russia in 2014, and in the east of Ukraine.

According to the polls, 5 parties are expected to pass the 5 percent threshold.

Acting president Volodymyr Zelenskiy's Servant of the People Party is predicted to get 49.5% percent of votes.

"Battle of the Clones" 

Unlike elections in neighbouring Russia, campaigns in Ukraine tend to be lively, and the seriousness of some candidates is open to question.

One of those in this year's election is Darth Viktorovich Vader, who is running for a seat in Odessa.

This is only the latest appearance of the Star Wars villain — another Darth Vader ran for president in 2014.

The Star Wars theme continues this year with the election being widely called "Battle of the Clones," a reference to the fact that many candidates are mimicking the still-popular recently elected President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and his Servant of the People party.

At least 86 candidates have listed in their bios that they are a "Servant of the People" though they have nothing to do with the president's party. And eight Zelenskiys are running — admittedly it is a fairly common name.

Though Zelenskiy, a former TV comic who won by a landslide in April to become president, is expected to win handsomely, he has recorded a video statement, urging voters to be careful not to vote for the copycats.

"The law, unfortunately, has no restrictions for those who are trying to confuse the voters," says Volodymyr Vyrva, spokesman for the Central Election Commission. "There's nothing we can do."

"Political extravaganza is part of the Ukrainian tradition where politicians have often resorted to various attention-grabbing antics," says Kiev-based political analyst Volodymyr Fesenko.

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