Tue, Apr 23, 2019 - Page 6 News List

Comedian wins Ukrainian vote in landslide


Ukrainian comedian Volodymyr Zelensky, center, reacts after the announcement of the first exit poll results in the presidential runoff election at his campaign headquarters in Kiev on Sunday.

Photo: AFP

With nearly all the votes counted in Ukraine, television star Volodymyr Zelenskiy is projected to win the country’s presidential runoff vote in a landslide.

Ukraine’s Central Election Commission yesterday said that Zelenskiy had won 73 percent of the vote, while Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko got just 24 percent support, with more than 96 percent 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.

One of the campaign slogans of the popular comedian, who has no previous political experience, was to unify Ukraine, which has been torn by bitter debates over its identity as well as the separatist conflict in the east that is fueled by Russia.

Even with a landslide to give him a powerful mandate for change, Zelenskiy has daunting challenges ahead.

The simmering, deadly conflict in eastern Ukraine and the conundrum over Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea are likely to dominate the agenda of the man who up until now has only played the president in a TV sitcom.

Zelenskiy, a Russian speaker from central Ukraine has promised to step up efforts to reintegrate the east back into Ukraine’s fold, but has offered no details on how he is going to do that.

A political novice, 41-year-old Zelenskiy will also have to face off against Russian President Vladimir Putin if he wants to mend relations with Ukraine’s neighbor.

Officials in Moscow yesterday sounded cautiously optimistic, but also condescending about Zelenskiy’s victory.

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, whose government has been supplying the separatists with weapons and manpower, said on his Facebook page yesterday morning that the results show “there is a chance to improve the relations with our country after all.”

He said he hoped Zelenskiy would be “pragmatic and responsible” when tackling separatism.

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