Petro Poroshenko appears to have easily won the Ukraine presidential elections with more than 55 percent of the vote, according to exit polls. If that result holds it means the 48-year-old businessman will win the presidency without the need for a runoff, which some had warned could severely destabilize the already rocky nation. The billionaire, who made his fortune through a chocolate empire, supports strong ties with Europe but is also seeking to improve relations with Russia, notes the Associated Press. Violence prevented most of the people in eastern Ukraine from voting so “it remained far from clear whether people there would accept Poroshenko’s mandate,” points out the Washington Post.
For now, Poroshenko is remaining optimistic and made it clear that solving the situation in the country’s east would be his top priority. "Today we can definitely say all of Ukraine has voted, this is a national vote," said Poroshenko, according to the Guardian. "The first steps that we will take at beginning of presidential office should be focused on stopping the war, to put an end to this chaos and bring peace to a united Ukraine." Parliamentary elections will be held before the end of the year, he said.
The big question now, points out the BBC’s David Stern, is “what will Russia’s reaction be?” Russian President Vladimir Putin has said Moscow will respect the results “but respect is not quite the same as recognition.” At the same time though, the New York Times notes that despite his pro-Europe stance, Poroshenko also has business interests in Russia, which has led to guarded optimism in Moscow that he could be open to negotiations.