Exit polls in Ukraine indicate that Petro Poroshenko has won the presidential election over other rival candidates like Yulia Tymoshenko and Serhiy Tihipko. The victory was expected by most observers in the previous week, as he enjoyed a wide lead over his rivals. Despite the nearly unambiguous victory, the regional governments of eastern Ukraine reported that only 9 out of 22 regional districts were able to fully participate in the voting, according to preliminary estimates. The eastern election authorities cited that the pro-Russian separatist militiaswere the cause of the disruption.
According to the Central Election Commission, in separatist strongholds like Luhansk and Donetsk, only 18-31% of polling stations remained open. The Donetsk regional government was kicked out of its main building before the May 11 referendum by separatists naming themselves the Donetsk People’s Republic. Militias set up roadblocks and patrols across the region around designated polling centers to ensure voting was unable to succeed. By mid-afternoon on Sunday, according to reporters, none of Donetsk’s 500 polling stations were operational, leaving the city’s population of 900,000 unable to cast votes.
Even President Vladimir Putin is unwilling to see the crisis escalate as a result of another series of botched elections. He released a statement on Friday guaranteeing support for the results of the election. This election is also being observed by almost 3,000 foreign (mostly European) election monitors, but they are mainly positioned in the west around Kiev and Odessa, leaving Luhansk, Donetsk, and Slovyansk mostly devoid of outside observers.
Poroshenko is former finance minister of former ousted President Viktor Yanukovych. He released only a brief statement upon learning of his victory, thanking voters for their record turnouts.
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