TV comedian elected as Ukrainian president

Volodymyr Zelenskiy, an actor and comedian, won with a landslide margin in Ukraine’s presidential election, with over 70 percent of the vote. He defeated his closest rival, former president, Petro Poroshenko on 31 March and 21 April in a two-round system. Zelenskiy had zero political experience prior to the election except for playing the role of president in a TV series Servant of the People.

Zelenskiy and former president Poroshenko advanced to the second round as they were the only two standouts, with Zelenskiy eventually toppling Poroshenko. Zelenskiy has pledged to keep Ukraine in its pro-Western course and said that Russian-language television should remain available to meet the interests of Ukraine’s Russian speakers. He used an unorthodox campaign strategy by going on social media and his television show to connect with millions of voters.

With a voter turnout of about 63 percent, mostly because of the war happening in eastern Ukraine, about 18.9 million people voted on 31 March.

The pressure is now on for Zelenskiy to prove that he isn’t just a joke and move the country forward. He has about a week before inauguration, in which he will come into power and inherits the problem facing Ukraine, including the simmering war with Russian-backed rebels in the east. His arch-nemesis, Poroshenko, said after the election that the result, ‘leaves us with uncertainty’ and he plans on staying in politics despite his latest humbling win after being president since 2014.

The international community seems rather welcoming to Zelenskiy. French president Emmanuel Macron congratulated him over a phone call, with Poland’s president also doing the same. The UK’s Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt stated that he would truly be the ‘Servant of the People’. The US and the EU both also sent their best wishes to the recently elected president.

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Bryan Theo Mfladhi

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June 2022
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