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Ukraine president’s party gets solid parliament majority

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, center, applauds with his team as they look at the election results at his party’s headquarters after a parliamentary election in Kiev, Ukraine, Sunday, July 21, 2019. Zelenskiy’s party took the largest share of votes in the country’s snap parliamentary election, an exit poll showed Sunday. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — The anti-corruption party of Ukraine’s new president has won a commanding majority of seats in the national parliament, near-complete election results showed Tuesday, giving him leverage to try to enact his promised reforms.

The national election commission reported Tuesday that with 98% of ballots counted, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s Servant of the People party had 43% of the vote for the 225 seats in parliament that are allocated proportionally.Party candidates also led in races for 176 of the 199 parliament seats being chosen in individual constituencies.

The election commission said a Russia-friendly party led by tycoon Viktor Medvedchuk, a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, was in second place in Sunday’s nationwide vote with 13% support and picked up 19 individual seats.

Zelenskiy, who took office in May, has promised to tackle Ukraine’s entrenched corruption. He also faces the challenges of trying to end the five-year-old war with Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine that has killed more than 13,000 people and of trying to raise Ukrainians’ poor living standards.

The head of the president’s party, Dmytro Razumkov, said key measures to be taken up when the new Verkhovna Rada parliament convenes will include removing national lawmakers’ immunity from prosecution, establishing procedures for presidential impeachment and creating anti-corruption agencies that are independent from both the president and parliament.

Zelenskiy, a television comedian with no prior political experience but a strong anti-corruption agenda, won office in a landslide against former President Petro Poroshenko. The actor is best known for his TV sitcom portrayal of a teacher who becomes president after a video of him complaining about corruption goes viral.

His election victory and the parliament election results reflect Ukrainians’ frustration with their political establishment as the country as endured war, disorder, the loss of Crimea to Russia and an economic decline.

With Zelenskiy having a parliamentary majority, Ukrainians will be expecting quick action, said analyst Volodymyr Fesenko of the Ukrainian think-tank Penta.

“Zelenskiy’s honeymoon with the voters will quickly come to an end and many questions stand before the new team,” he told The Associated Press. “How do you find the optimal balance between the new impulse for liberal economic reforms and solving social problems and poverty?”

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Jim Heintz in Moscow contributed to this story.

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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