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Comedian Zelenskiy keeps Ukraine presidential poll lead

Volodymyr Zelenskiy, Ukrainian comic actor and candidate in the upcoming presidential election, takes part in a production process of Servant of the People series in Kiev, Ukraine March 6, 2019. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko

KIEV (Reuters) - Comic actor Volodymyr Zelenskiy has kept his lead in Ukraine’s presidential election race, according to an opinion poll published on Wednesday.

But support for the 41-year-old, a political novice, remains far below the level need to secure outright victory in the March 31 ballot, and most voters still do not expect him to become president, the SOCIS survey showed.

The poll by the Kiev-based research body showed Zelenskiy on 20.46 percent of votes, with incumbent Petro Poroshenko second on 13.25 percent and opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko third on 9.50 percent.

A total of 39 candidates have registered for the election. If no candidate wins 50 percent, the top two will face each other in a run-off on April 21.

SOCIS said it interviewed 2,000 voters in all regions, except in annexed Crimea, from March 9 to March 14.

SOCIS said 25.5 percent of those it questioned expected Poroshenko to be re-elected, while 25.1 percent favoured Zelenskiy to win, and 12.45 percent Tymoshenko.

Reporting by Pavel Polityuk; Editing by Catherine Evans