KIEV, Ukraine — Billionaire candy maker Petro Poroshenko appeared to win Ukraine’s presidential election Sunday, with an exit poll showing 55.9 percent supporting the candidate, who campaigned on promises to align Ukraine with Europe while also easing strained relations with Russia.
The exit poll based on 17,000 interviews at polling places around the country showed Poroshenko far ahead of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who was the choice of 12.9 percent of those interviewed by the Razumkov Center public opinion research firm. But with widespread disruption of voting in eastern Ukraine, it was unclear whether the exit poll was a reliable indicator of the national vote.
A separate poll by Ukrainian television stations gave Poroshenko 57 percent of the vote to Tymoshenko’s 12 percent.
Poroshenko took a victory bow on television just minutes after the exit poll results were announced, pledging that his first acts as head of state would be focused on “ending the war, chaos and disorder” and restoring unity to the divided country.
Tymoshenko also appeared on TV to say she considered the election to have been fairly conducted and would accept the results when they are announced.
If Poroshenko does capture more than 50 percent of the vote when results are tabulated, probably Monday, he will avoid the need for a June 15 runoff with the second-place finisher. That outright win would allay fears that three more weeks of uncertainty could result in further violence. At least 130 people have been killed in recent weeks.