TV comic cruises to landslide victory in Ukraine’s presidential election

World Today

Ukrainian presidential candidate Volodymyr Zelenskiy reacts following the announcement of the first exit poll in a presidential election at his campaign headquarters in Kiev, Ukraine April 21, 2019. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko

A comedian, who plays the president of Ukraine on TV, will now fill the role in real life. Incumbent President Poroshenko has conceded defeat in the runoff election, and congratulated TV star Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

CGTN’s Natalie Carney has details.

More than 62 percent of registered voters cast their ballots in one of the country’s most unusual presidential elections, which pit a comedic actor against an experienced politician on the country’s most powerful stage.

“Thank you all for your support, to the military for defending and protecting Ukraine, to journalists, and to all Ukrainians for their support,” president-elect Volodymyr Zelenskiy told supporters at his campaign headquarters. “It doesn’t matter where you are. I will not let you down!”

His opponent, President Petro Poroshenko, who came into power following Russia’s annexation of Crimea conceded defeat shortly after polls closed.

”My dear Ukrainians, this month I will leave the post as head of state,” Poroshenko told a crowd at his election offices. “This is what the majority of Ukrainians have decided and I accept this decision. I will leave the office but I want to announce firmly — I will not leave politics. ”

Yet, even walking into polling stations for the second time, some voters remained unsure of their choice.

“I don’t like the old one, but I am afraid of the new one,” said one female voter. “There are no good options.”

“Like everyone else, I want the corruption dealt with,” said another. “Both candidates are promising to do it, but will the winner really follow through?”

Other voters were more certain.

“I will vote for Poroshenko because I do not want a clown to be our commander in chief,” said a third woman.

These elections have seen several twists, including a court hearing just hours before polls were set to open, over whether Zelensky had violated electoral law in the first round of elections and should be stricken from the ballot.

More than 130,000 law enforcement personnel were dispatched nationally to ensure security, while approximately 3,000 international observers were present at different polling stations to make sure the voting was free and fair.

“We went to the polling stations as well as to the districts to verify that everything was done properly,” said Christina Maciw with the NGO CANDEM. “We will verify the ballots are stamped properly and whether everyone follows proper procedures. The blotters have to bring their passports and they have to register according to the law.”

Initial polling results show that the majority of Ukrainians have chosen to chart a new political path rather than continue down the old one, dissatisfied with a political establishment they blame for the problems their country is facing. Most seem to be relying on a popular Ukrainian saying that “Noah’s Ark was built by an amateur. The professionals built a Titanic.”

While Zelenskiy may have won the job, there is a long way to go to win Ukrainian hearts. His ability to control tensions with Russia, bring corruption out of the shadows, steer the country closer to the EU and handle its crumbling economy, without a script, is what the world will be watching. This will very well be Zelenskiy’s greatest performance ever.

CGTN’s Wang Guan spoke with Doug Bandow for more on the elections in Ukraine. Bandow is a Senior fellow at the Cato Institute, where he focuses on foreign policy and civil liberties.