Kiev, Ukraine – A comedian whose only political experience is limited to portraying a president on television was slated to win a resounding victory in Ukraine’s presidential election on Sunday , a result that seems to be a reaction against entrenched corruption and low voter turnout. life in the country.
The exit polls and the first results of around 8% of the polls had the comedian Volodymyr Zelenskiy, 41, with almost three out of four votes in the second round against the current president Petro Poroshenko , a strong message against the five years of Poroshenko in power.
Even before the results began to arrive little by little, Poroshenko accepted his defeat by declaring: “I will leave the presidency, but I want to emphasize strongly that I will not leave politics.”
Zelenskiy, meanwhile, promised major changes at the top of the government and that his first task would be to secure the release of around 170 Ukrainian soldiers who are prisoners in the east of the country or in Russia.
Ukraine has been besieged by rampant corruption, a sick economy and a devastating five-year war with separatists backed by Russia in the east of the country, a conflict that has claimed the lives of more than 13,000 people.
After taking office, Zelenskiy said he would enter into negotiations with Russia to try to end the conflict. He also noted, without going into details, that “we will carry out a very powerful information war” to stop the fighting.
He also suggested, in a statement that could make Russia uncomfortable, that his victory could be a model for other former members of the Soviet Union who want to get away from political stagnation: “To all the countries of the former Soviet Union: look at us, everything is possible” .
Although the anticipated results only represent a small fraction of the vote, the US Embassy in Ukraine congratulated Zelenskiy, as did NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.
Zelenskiy rose to fame nationally for his comedic performance on a Ukrainian television series of a high school teacher who becomes president after his video criticizing corruption goes viral. In a case where reality imitates fiction, Zelenskiy attacked corruption as a candidate.
Although Zelenskiy was criticized for his brief campaign platform and because he has never held a public office, voters apparently left those concerns aside in exchange for an absolute transformation in the country’s top brass.
“I grew up with old politicians and only saw empty promises, lies and corruption,” said Lyudmila Potrebko , a 22-year-old computer programmer who voted for Zelenskiy. “It’s time to change that.”
Poroshenko was a billionaire mogul of the candy industry and former chancellor before taking office in 2014 after popular protests caused his predecessor, with pro-Russian views, to leave the country. Although he instituted some reforms, his detractors pointed out that he did not do enough to stop corruption.