Ukraine: According to exit polls, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, a comedian and political novice, crushed incumbent Petro Poroshenko in the presidential vote. Zelenskiy’s victory was fueled by reaction against government corruption, the country’s lingering war, and a sluggish economy. Zelenskiy has been accused of being a puppet of Ihor Kolomoisky, a Ukrainian oligarch currently residing in self-imposed exile in Israel. Kolomoisky is accused by Ukrainian authorities of embezzling more than $5-billion from account-holders at his former bank, PrivatBank. [In politics, the more things change, the more they remain the same.] -GEG
Volodymyr Zelenskiy, a comedian and political novice, scored a
crushing victory over incumbent Petro Poroshenko in Ukraine’s runoff
presidential vote Sunday, according to exit polls, in a resounding
rebuke to the country’s political establishment.
The national exit poll, which consisted of results from a number of
polling agencies, showed Zelenskiy winning 73.2 percent of the vote
compared to Poroshenko’s 25.3 percent — a margin of victory of nearly 48
Other exit polls gave similar results. First official results are expected to be released early Monday morning.
Zelenskiy’s triumph was fueled by a wave of anti-establishment
sentiment, similar to other populist insurgencies sweeping across the
But the comedian, who has promised to clean house among Ukraine’s
ruling elite, will likely find fulfilling his supporters’ high
expectations difficult — not the least due to his dearth of political
knowledge: His only brush with Ukrainian politics has been to play the
president in a popular television show called “Servant of the People.”
“I promise all of you, I will never let you down,” Zelenskiy told a
jubilant crowd of supporters at his campaign headquarters upon hearing
the exit poll results.
Zelenskiy thrashed Poroshenko in the first round of the election at
the end of last month, setting the stage for Sunday’s runoff.
His meteoric political rise is largely due to being a new face in the
political arena of a country where voters have grown tired with
establishment politicians, and feel frustrated about issues such as
corruption, the country’s unresolved war and a sluggish economy.
Zelenskiy’s TV character, Vasily Goloborodko, is a modest high school
teacher unexpectedly catapulted into the presidency overnight to
confront the crooked political establishment and fight corruption.
Poroshenko, a billionaire candy tycoon and one of Ukraine’s richest
men, was himself elected five years ago on a wave of anti-establishment
sentiment, following a revolution that drove the country’s pro-Moscow
leader, Viktor Yanukovych, from power.
The outgoing president can point to a number of big wins during his
time in office, such as containing the Kremlin-led insurrection in the
country’s east, acquiring visa-free travel for Ukrainians to the EU and
staving off economic collapse. But for many voters, Poroshenko has come
to symbolize oligarchs’ continued grip on Ukraine’s economy and
Links to oligarch
Election day was fairly uneventful — a stark contrast to the campaign itself, which was marked by accusations of foul play, insults and heated rhetoric.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko casts his ballot in Kiev on April 21, 2019 | Sergei Supinsky/AFP via Getty Images
A debate between the two candidates Friday
in Kiev’s central football stadium, for example, resembled more a
sporting contest than a political discussion, with more than 20,000
cheering supporters in attendance and millions more watching on
On Sunday, Zelenskiy was greeted by a crush of journalists when he
arrived at his polling station, and said little more than that the
election was “a victory for the Ukrainian people.”
Poroshenko, for his part, cast his ballot in central Kiev around midday and warned against taking the election lightly.
“It is very important to be guided by reason during the vote,” he
said. “Because it’s not funny. At first maybe it seems funny and fun,
but it should not be painful later.”
During the campaign, Poroshenko said Zelenskiy was too weak and
inexperienced to stand up to Russian President Vladimir Putin, and
called him a “bright candy wrapper” — an attractive, insubstantial
covering that concealed the vested interests of other oligarchs.
In particular, he accused Zelenskiy of being a “puppet” of Ihor Kolomoisky,
a Ukrainian billionaire currently residing in self-imposed exile in
Israel, who is accused by Ukrainian authorities of embezzling more than
$5 billion from account-holders at his former bank, PrivatBank.
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