Ukrainian comic Volodymyr Zelensky is set to win the presidency in a landslide victory over incumbent leader, Petro Poroshenko, exit polls show. Zelensky has already been visited by police over violating one election law.
The high turnout in the second round of the presidential election in Ukraine reveals an enthusiasm for the promise of change brought by Zelensky. He’s leading with some 72-74 percent of the votes, according to the latest exit poll figures. Incumbent President Petro Poroshenko secured only around 25-28 percent of votes, suffering a crushing defeat at the hands of Zelensky.
Zelensky’s team celebrated victory as soon as the first official exit polls were out, even reciting a rocket launch-like countdown. The soon-to-be president didn’t waste many words, simply thanking his parents, his wife, his team and Ukrainian citizens who voted for him. He also jokingly thanked the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) for “keeping him in shape” during the campaign.
In contrast, Poroshenko held a lengthy speech and a Q&A, vowing to remain active in politics and to protect the “achievements” of his presidential term, including sanctions against Russia. Yet he accepted the defeat and said the election was fair.
Zelensky got himself into trouble with the law on Sunday when he showed his ballot to the cameras with a ticker next to his name. This violated Ukraine’s rules on secrecy of elections. Police arrived to Zelensky’s campaign HQ to issue a fine for the deed, but his team said it was no big deal.
A professional comedy actor, scriptwriter and producer, Zelensky comes to power in Ukraine on the wave of disillusionment with Poroshenko’s failure to tackle corruption and a sharp decrease of living standards in Ukraine over the past five years. His campaign was built on a promise to break down a corrupt system of oligarchic power in Kiev. Part of his appeal was rooted in a character he played in a TV series – a school teacher who accidentally became the head of state and chose to act as a servant of the people.
Zelensky’s campaign apparently outmaneuvered that of Poroshenko’s, culminating in the comedian’s idea to turn the public debate into a massive show hosted at a Kiev stadium. The Friday debate sealed Zelensky’s lead, despite the incumbent’s attempts to portray his opponent as a Moscow stooge and a puppet of oligarch Igor Kolomoysky.
By securing the presidential office Zelensky’s political party – called ‘Servant of the People’ after his own TV show – gets a head start in the upcoming parliamentary election, scheduled for October. He will need to secure a support base in the legislature to be able to implement his policies, and a failure to do so may easily undermine his landslide win.