Country Risk

Second round of Ukraine’s presidential election to increase policy shifts and operational difficulties if incumbent loses

02 April 2019

A screen displays the preliminary results of the first round of Ukraine's presidential election at the Central Electoral Commission headquarters in Kiev on 1 April 2019. Source: Sergei Gapon/AFP/Getty Images

Ukraine held the first round of its presidential election on 31 March, with 39 candidates running for the top office. The second round of the election will be held on 21 April.

  • With 98.6% of the ballots counted, two candidates - comedian and TV producer Volodymyr Zelenskyi and incumbent president Petro Poroshenko - proceeded to the second round, with 30.23% and 15.91% of the votes in the first round respectively. This outcome was in line with IHS Markit's pre-election forecast. Former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko received 13.39% of the votes while pro-Russian opposition candidate Yuriy Boyko received 11.68% (see chart). As expected, Zelenskyi fared better among Russian-speakers in the southern and eastern regions, while Poroshenko and Tymoshenko received most of their votes in the western and central regions of Ukraine. The election was viewed as mostly competitive and fair by domestic and international observers, including from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and the European Parliament. Turnout at 63.5% was slightly higher than during the previous election in 2014 (59.5%).
  • Zelenskyi's voting total, which was higher than opinion polls had suggested, is indicative of growing public dissatisfaction with the existing political establishment's inability to deliver reforms, remove corruption, and substantially improve living standards. Zelenskyi, a 41-year-old newcomer in Ukrainian politics who had announced his candidacy in December 2018, scored more votes than did President Poroshenko and ex-prime minister Tymoshenko combined. This indicates a growing public appetite to overhaul the political landscape. This will likely be manifested in higher support for new political groups or figures in the upcoming October 2019 parliamentary election, with older parties and political figures likely to suffer in the polls. Zelenskyi's Servant of the People party and similar new groups are likely to make major inroads in the next parliament.
  • Zelenskyi's centrist campaign was vague on policy issues, indicating growing policy shifts and operational uncertainty if he were to be elected.

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