Presidential party suffers setback in Ukrainian local elections: exit polls

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky has suffered a setback in Sunday's local elections, early exit polls showed, while his pro-Russian and pro-European rivals are leading in most of the country's major cities, news wires reported.

 

In nine major cities and regional centres across the country where the polls were held, no presidential party candidate was elected mayor, not even in Zelensky's hometown. His party Servant of the People won the elections to municipal councils in two large cities in the centre of Ukraine, but in the other seven it most often placed third or fourth, according to two polls.

The local elections were seen as a test for Zelensky, whose popularity has suffered in the year-and-a-half since he came unexpectedly to power. Zelensky, a former comedian with no political experience, won a landslide victory in a 2019 presidential election promising to root out corruption and end a war with Russian-backed separatists in the east. His newly created Servant of the People party won an outright majority in a parliamentary election last year, a record win in the former Soviet republic of around 40 million people. But in the absence of tangible results, Zelensky's popularity and that of his party has been on the decline.

Voter turnout reached just 36%, according to the Ukrainian election watchdog Opora, while in previous local elections five years ago it was almost 47%.

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