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'Chocolate King' claims victory in Ukraine

Ukraine is electing a new president. In the capital, Kyiv, voters turned out in force to cast their ballots, in spite of the heat. Opinion polls indicate a win for billionaire Petro Poroshenko.

On this hot, humid Sunday afternoon the polling station in the elite Pechersk district of Kyiv is packed. Some 60 people are standing in several lines, waiting to cast their ballots. The majority are pensioners, and most wait patiently. But some are in a hurry, and the poll workers are struggling to cope.

"Many more people than we expected are voting. We don't have enough staff," a member of the election commission explained. But apart from the long lines, everything is going according to plan.

'Who should I vote for?'

Antonina Vassilyevna turned to her granddaughter, Masha, for help. "Who should I vote for?" she asked.

Campaign posters for Petro Poroshenko (left) and Yulia Tymoshenko

Petro Poroshenko and Yulia Timoshenko were the presidential frontrunners

"Let's vote for the Chocolate King, Granny," said eight-year-old Masha.

She means 48-year-old politician and businessman Petro Poroshenko. Among the billionaire's many enterprises is the former Karl Marx candy factory, now called Roshen, whose "Kyiv cakes" have been popular ever since the Soviet era.

"But you're not supposed to have too much sweet stuff, darling," her grandmother smiles.

"Then let's vote for Yulia Tymoshenko. She's pretty," Masha suggested.

"But beauty isn't everything," Granny replied, skeptically.

Rather than waiting in line, Vassilyevna decided to come back later. "I probably won't decide who I'll vote for until I'm in the polling booth," she said.

Accusations of corruption

Poroshenko and Tymoshenko are the two frontrunners in Ukraine's early presidential election. Opinion polls gave Poroshenko between 30 and 40 percent of the vote - a clear lead over former Prime Minister Tymoshenko, who was projected with around 20 percent.

"I voted for Poroshenko because he's a good businessman," said Volodymyr, a man in his mid-60s. He regards Tymoshenko, on the other hand, as "corrupt."

"We haven't forgotten that she worked with the former Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko in the 1990s," Volodymyr said. "I can't believe she's clean." Lazarenko was convicted in the United States of corruption, among other charges, and spent 10 years in jail.

Irina, a Kyiv housewife, wearing a White blouse with red embroidery outside a polling station

Irina's traditional blouse proclaims that she supports a unified Ukraine

"Tymoshenko has already had her chance at government. Now it's other people's turn," said Irina, a qualified mathematician and housewife in her late 30s. She's standing outside another polling station nearby. Here, too, is a very long line. Like many people on the streets of Kyiv, Irina is wearing a "vyshyvanka", a traditional Ukrainian shirt with a red embroidered pattern. "I'm wearing it to show that I support a unified Ukraine," she said.

Hope for peace with Poroshenko

Last winter Irina, along with many others, was cheering on the pro-European opposition protests on Independence Square (the Maidan). She didn't take to the streets herself, though: "I was afraid."

Poroshenko supported the demonstrators, too. He gave a speech from the podium and provided them with warm food. Now, Irina wants to help elect him as successor to former President Viktor Yanukovych, who fled the country at the height of the protests and is now living in Russia. She's not bothered by the fact that Poroshenko is a billionaire who uses his television channel for his own advertising. "The others do it too," she says.

Alla and Artem, both in their mid-20s, have also voted for Poroshenko. "We hope he can bring peace to Ukraine," says Artem, an IT expert. "Maybe he'll be a transitional president, and then someone better will come along," added his girlfriend, who's a flight attendant.

Possible first-round victory

Young voters Alla and Arten outside a polling Station in Kyiv

Alla and Artem are hoping a Poroshenko presidency will bring peace to the country

DW spoke to about a dozen people on the streets of Kyiv. Only one woman in her mid-20s said she had voted for Tymoshenko. "I did it out of female solidarity," she said. "Tymoshenko has suffered like hardly any other politician in Ukraine. She's earned her presidency."

The opposition politician spent more than two years behind bars, and was only freed in February, after the revolution. The interim Ukrainian parliament overturned her sentence for alleged abuse of office when signing gas contracts with Russia.

If the whole of Ukraine votes like the Pechersk district in Kyiv, Poroshenko could actually win outright in the first round of voting. The Chocolate King may be poised to ascend the throne.

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