March 27, 2019 / 12:48 PM / 7 months ago

Comedian Zelenskiy strengthens Ukraine presidential poll lead

FILE PHOTO: 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, a political novice who plays a fictional president in a popular TV series, has strengthened his lead in Ukraine’s presidential election race, according to an opinion poll published on Wednesday.

But support for the 41-year-old remains far below the level needed 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 SOCIS research body showed Zelenskiy on 24.6 percent of votes in a first round of voting, with incumbent Petro Poroshenko second on 14.8 percent and opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko third on 8.7 percent.

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

SOCIS said 28.5 percent of those it questioned favored Zelenskiy to win in a second round, 25.7 percent expected Poroshenko to be re-elected and 12.7 percent saw Tymoshenko as the winner.

SOCIS said it interviewed 2,000 voters in all regions, except annexed Crimea, from March 20-25.

Reporting by Pavel Polityuk; Editing by Alison Williams

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