The party of Ukrainian president – and ex-comedian – Volodymyr Zelensky is set to win a snap parliamentary election, consolidating his political power.
Exit polls suggest his Servant of the People party will have a majority in parliament – but may still need a coalition partner to form a government.
Mr Zelensky said he would hold talks with the Holos (The Voice) party, which is led by a rock star.
The president has pledged to implement radical reforms and tackle corruption.
Since he triumphed in April’s presidential poll, Mr Zelensky has been unable to appoint the ministers he wants.
His party, which was only registered last year, is projected by Ukrainian media outlets to be on course to win an absolute majority – more than half of the Ukrainian parliament’s seats.
Only 424 of the 450 seats are up for grabs, with the remaining seats representing Crimea, which was annexed from Ukraine by Russia in a military intervention in 2014.
Speaking outside a polling station after casting his ballot in Kiev on Sunday, Mr Zelensky told the BBC’s Steve Rosenberg that the snap election was “maybe more important than the presidential election”.
What are the latest results?
With more than 50% of votes counted, five parties look on course to clear the 5% threshold to enter parliament.
Partial official results give Mr Zelensky’s party 42.5% of the vote, with the pro-Russian Opposition Platform-For Life, who Mr Zelensky has ruled out a coalition with, in second place with 12.8%.
Speaking in Kiev after the polls closed, Mr Zelensky said that inviting Svyatoslav Vakarchuk’s Holos party to hold talks on forming a coalition “was my initiative even before the election”.
Holos has so far won 6.4% of the vote.
The other two parties projected to enter parliament are former President Petro Poroshenko’s European Solidarity (8.7%) and Batkivshchyna (Fatherland) led by former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko (8.2%).
The victorious party or coalition will form a government and nominate a prime minister.
What powers does Ukraine’s parliament have?
- Ukrainian MPs have greater powers than MPs in Russia. The president is in charge of foreign policy, defence and security
- Parliament handles nearly all other policy areas, notably the economy and social welfare
- A majority of MPs proposes a prime minister-designate to the president
- The PM, if confirmed by president and parliament, names members of the government
- Parliament confirms or rejects the government team, or indeed individual ministers, and can impeach the president
- MPs have a veto on key state posts such as: national security service chief; central bank chief; chief prosecutor
The president told our correspondent that the “president, prime minister and parliament have to work together, just to make life happy for Ukraine”.
He said the key issues were investment, democracy and safety.
The comedian president
Mr Zelensky was known for his comic role on TV as a teacher who wins the heart of the nation and becomes president after his expletive-laden rant about politics goes viral.
In reality, his route to the leadership was a bit more conventional than in his show – but only a bit.
After shunning rallies and speeches and openly admitting he did not have any strong political views, he scored a landslide victory in April and unseated Mr Poroshenko, a political heavyweight.
The election was widely expected to give Mr Zelensky a greater mandate for reform, sweeping aside the old guard and bringing new faces to parliament.
One of the candidates for Servant of the People, for example, is Zhan Beleniuk, an Olympic wrestler who wants to become Ukraine’s first mixed-race MP.