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Ukraine election: Comedian Zelensky wins presidency by landslide April 22, 2019

Posted by bohdan.warchomij in : Metaphor Online , trackback

Ukrainian comedian Volodymyr Zelensky has won a landslide victory in the country’s presidential election, exit polls suggest.

The polls give the political newcomer, who dominated the first round of voting three weeks ago, more than 70% support.

Mr Zelensky, 41, challenged incumbent president Petro Poroshenko who has admitted defeat.

The apparent result is being seen as a huge blow to Mr Poroshenko and a rejection of Ukraine’s establishment.

“I will never let you down,” Mr Zelensky told celebrating supporters on Sunday.

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

If polls are correct, he will be elected for a five-year term. Official results are expected to come in throughout Sunday night.

Mr Zelensky is best known for starring in a satirical television series in which his character accidentally becomes Ukrainian president.

The president holds significant powers over the security, defence and foreign policy of the country.

Humiliation for Poroshenko

Analysis by Jonah Fisher, BBC News, Kiev

Ukraine’s choice was between an experienced politician with five years as president on his CV and a comedian wielding little more than a blank sheet of paper. That so many people have opted for Volodymyr Zelensky is a humiliation for Petro Poroshenko.

Thirty-seven candidates were removed from the ballot paper from the first round and yet the president only picked up about 9% more votes this time. Mr Zelensky gained almost 45%.

This feels like a massive protest vote and for now Mr Zelensky and his campaign team are celebrating.

It’s hard to see the feeling lasting long. The hard work will come when they have to start fleshing out what are at the moment vague policies.

It’s one thing to have bold ideas but quite another to implement them.

Polls gave Mr Poroshenko, who has been in power since 2014, 25% of the vote.

“The outcome of the election leaves us with uncertainty [and] unpredictability,” he said after exit polls were released.

He added: “I will leave office but I want to firmly stress – I will not quit politics.”

But Russia’s foreign ministry said Ukrainian voters had expressed their desire for political change.

“The new leadership now must understand and realise the hopes of its electors,” deputy foreign minister Grigory Karasin told the Ria Novosti news agency. “This of course applies to domestic as well as foreign affairs.”

Meanwhile, Mr Zelensky told a news conference he would “reboot” peace talks with the separatists.

“We will… continue with the Minsk talks – we will reboot them,” he said.

“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.”

Like his TV character, the real-life Zelenskiy has focused his campaign strongly on corruption. Although criticized as having a vague platform, Zelenskiy has made specific proposals, including removing immunity for the president, parliament members and judges, and a lifetime ban on holding public office for anyone convicted of corruption. He also calls for a tax amnesty under which someone holding hidden assets would declare them, be taxed at 5% and face no other measures.

He supports Ukraine’s eventual membership in NATO, but only if the country were to approve this in a referendum.

Zelenskiy has proposed that direct talks with Russia are necessary to resolve the conflict in eastern Ukraine, where fighting with Russia-backed separatist rebels has killed more than 13,000 people since 2014. The Kremlin denies involvement there and says it is an internal matter. Zelenskiy says Russia-annexed Crimea must be returned to Ukraine and compensation paid.

Zelenskiy’s image has been shadowed by his admission that he had commercial interests in Russia through a holding company, and by persistent speculation about links with oligarch Ihor Kolomoyskyi, who owns the television station that airs “Servant of the People.”

A Ukrainian court this week ruled that the nationalization of a bank once owned by Kolomoyskyi was illegal, leading to new concern about Zelenskiy’s possible ties to him.

Poroshenko, who entered politics after establishing a lucrative candy-making company, came to power with a pragmatic image in 2014 after mass protests drove the previous, Russia-friendly president to leave the country.

Five years later, critics denounce him for having done little to combat Ukraine’s endemic corruption. The war with Russia-backed separatists in the east grinds on with no clear strategy for ending it. And while his economic reforms may have pleased international lenders, they’ve left millions of Ukrainians wondering if they can find the money to pay their utility bills.

After his weak performance in the election’s first round, in which Zelenskiy got nearly twice as many votes, Poroshenko said he had taken voters’ criticism to heart. He has since made some strong moves, including the long-awaited creation of an anti-corruption court. He also ordered the dismissal of the governor of the corruption-plagued Odessa region, and fired the deputy head of foreign intelligence who reportedly has vast real estate holdings in Russia.

Poroshenko, 53, has positioned himself as a leader who will stand up to Russia. He has scored some significant goals for Ukraine’s national identity and its desire to move out of Russia’s influence.

He signed an association agreement with the European Union — which predecessor Viktor Yanukovych turned away from, setting off the 2014 protests. Ukrainians now can travel visa-free to the European Union, a significant perk. He has also pushed relentlessly for the Ukrainian Orthodox Church to be recognized as self-standing rather than just a branch of the Russian church.

Who is Volodymyr Zelensky?

Mr Zelensky starred in the long-running satirical drama Servant of the People in which his character accidentally becomes Ukraine’s president.

He plays a teacher who is elected after his expletive-laden rant about corruption goes viral on social media.

He ran under a political party with the same name as his show.

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