Ukrainians voted in a snap parliamentary election on Sunday that is expected to strengthen President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s hold on power, handing the novice politician a broader mandate for driving change in a nation at war.
A TV comedian with no prior policymaking experience, Zelenskiy won a landslide victory in a presidential ballot in April, having cast himself as an everyman outsider who would tackle corruption and raise living standards in one of Europe’s poorest countries.
But since then the 41-year-old has had to deal with a cabinet and lawmakers who are mostly loyal to his predecessor Petro Poroshenko, a balance of power that Zelenskiy hopes Sunday’s election will swing in his favor.
His Servant of the People party, named after the televised comedy in which he played a fictional president, has consistently led opinion polls for the parliamentary vote, though it might fall short of a majority.
Zelenskiy has so far not publicly designated a prime minister or a preferred coalition partner, but on Sunday he appeared to rule out an alliance with parties that have previously held power.
Whoever wins the election will inherit a country at the center of a standoff between Moscow and the West following Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula in 2014 and its role in a separatist conflict in the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine that has killed 13,000 people in the past five years.
The new government will also need to implement reforms agreed with international donors to secure billions of dollars of new loans to keep the economy stable.