Ukraine set to elect comedian as president 

Ukraine set to elect comedian as president 

Ukrainians are voting today (Sunday) in the presidential runoff after an ill-tempered campaign.

Television comedian Volodymyr Zelensky, 41, (pictured) leads heavily in the opinion polls over Ukraine’s incumbent president, Petro Poroshenko, despite having zero political experience other than playing the president in a spoof drama.

A poll by KIIS this week estimated that Zelenskiy had 72-per-cent support with Poroshenko on 25 per cent. Last week a different survey put the imbalance on 61 per cent and 24 per cent.

The Ukrainian comedy series “Servant of the People” stars Zelensky as a downtrodden teacher who abruptly becomes president of Ukraine. Analysts have been trying to watch the 50-odd episodes for clues about how a President Zelensky would behave in office. 

Only 9 per cent of Ukrainians have confidence in their central government, which was the lowest of any electorate in the world, according to a Gallup study published last month.

Zelensky will certainly try to avoid the fate of his fictional president, who is sent to prison and by the time he is freed Europe’s second-largest country has split into 28 independent states.

The comic actor’s political challenge has won support from an electorate tired of corruption and oligarchy influence.

“I am the result of your mistakes, I am a verdict on you,” Zelensky told Poroshenko during Friday’s surreal debate at a Kiev’s Olympic football stadium, where each side of the pitch was filled with rival supporters. Poroshenko was keen to accept a debate on any terms because of his poor polling figures. 

Poroshenko, who became wealthy in the confectionary trade, said Zelensky was not strong enough to stand up to Russian President Vladimir Putin. 

The incumbent said Putin wanted to “drag Ukraine back into the Russian empire” but he was jeered by the crowd with chants of “Get out!”.  

Zelensky has pledged to boost wages and reduce poverty. The actor promised: “I will do everything that I can . . . If I fail, I will leave.” He is often light on detail, enabling voters to pin their various hopes on him.

“Some think he wants to be in Nato, so they vote for him. Others think he supports Russia, so they vote for him,” said Natalia Chernyshova, a graphic designer, who was handing out anti-Zelensky leaflets in Independence Square in Kiev.

 

Volodymyr Zelensky. Picture credit: Wikimedia 

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