Comedian Volodymyr Zelensky Wins Ukraine’s Presidential Election With Overwhelming Majority

Максим СтояловCC BY SA 4.0 Wikimedia

Volodymyr Zelensky, a 41-year-old comic, who is popular for starring in a satirical show where he accidentally becomes the leader of Ukraine, is actually set to become the country’s next president, according to BBC.

Although he has not been formally announced as the president, exit polls showed Zelensky winning the election by a landslide with more than 70 percent of the votes.

“I will never let you down,” a beaming Zelensky told supporters as exit polls were released.

“I’m not yet officially the president. But as a citizen of Ukraine, I can say to all countries in the post-Soviet Union: Look at us. Anything is possible!”

The incumbent, Petro Poroshenko, received less than a quarter of the votes, leading him to concede defeat.

“The outcome of the election leaves us with uncertainty [and] unpredictability,” Poroshenko said after exit polls were released. “I will leave office but I want to firmly stress — I will not quit politics.”

The billionaire Poroshenko rose to power in 2014 after an uprising in Ukraine overthrew the country’s pro-Russian government. The departing president has warned that the new leadership could quickly fall under the orbit of Russian influence, but supporters of Zelensky refute the allegation.

Since Russian forces annexed Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula five years ago, Ukrainian security forces have been fighting pro-Russian separatists in the eastern part of the country. Supporters of the incoming president hope that Zelensky will be able to help the country reach peace with an imminent ceasefire.

“I think that we will have personnel changes. In any case, we will continue in the direction of the Minsk talks and head towards concluding a ceasefire,” Zelensky has said.

Supporters of incumbent Poroshenko point to Zelensky’s inexperience as a problematic factor, but Zelensky seems to have benefitted from his history of not being a politician. The election results are a referendum on the Ukrainian establishment, observers say, and although it will be difficult for Zelensky to implement his vague policies, he must at least be given a chance.

Zelensky was popular in Ukraine as the star of a satirical TV show, Servant of the People, in which he played a teacher. An expletive-ridden rant goes viral helping him become so popular that he becomes the president of the country. Zelensky ran under a political party with the same name as his show.

It remains to be seen if Zelensky’s win leads to stabilization in the area, but it is a development which could have lasting consequences for this part of the world.