Unless your cable TV package includes a lot of Ukranian programming, you might not have heard of comedian Volodymyr Zelenskiy until recently. (I know I certainly hadn’t.) But you’ll be hearing a lot more about him now. The guy who made his bones playing a sarcastic version of the real president of Ukraine (think of him as an eastern European version of Alec Baldwin) was elected to become that nation’s actual president in a landslide yesterday. Given all of the problems that Ukraine is already struggling with, what could possibly go wrong? (Associated Press)
Results from nearly all polling stations show that TV star Volodymyr Zelenskiy has won the Ukrainian presidential runoff vote in a landslide.
The Central Election Commission says Monday that Zelenskiy has won 73% of the vote while the incumbent President Petro Poroshenko got just 24% support with more than 95% of the ballots counted.
Unlike in most of the elections in Ukraine’s post-Soviet history, Zelenskiy appears to have won both in Ukraine’s west and east, areas that have been traditionally polarized.
Zelenskiy is known for cracking jokes about outgoing President Petro Poroshenko, but the laughs may be few and far between once he’s actually in office. You can probably understand why the public might have voiced their support for anyone other than Poroshenko, given how poorly things have been going. The nation is still split pretty much in two, with Russian-backed separatists controlling much of the eastern part of the nation. Corruption in the government is endemic, poverty is widespread and the cost of living has driven many citizens with viable work skills to flee to the west.
But what is Zelenskiy planning to do about all of those problems? Nobody seems to know since he freely admits that he started his campaign as a stunt to get some laughs. He was probably as surprised as anyone to find himself leading in the polls. He’s complained about all the problems I listed above and pledged to address them, but he never got around to offering any specifics as to how he would do that.
People noted that Americans really rolled the dice when they elected Donald Trump, a businessman with virtually zero experience in government and politics. But at least he was a successful entrepreneur who was used to dealing with a large, complex organization. What has Zelenskiy ever done that would prepare him for these duties and responsibilities? Perhaps he’ll surprise the world and usher in an era of Ukranian unity and prosperity. (He did manage to win a majority in both the eastern and western parts of the country.) And the people of Ukraine could definitely use a break. But one gets the feeling that Zelenskiy is going to wake up on the first day after he takes office and realize that his new job is no laughing matter.