It is a tale that is stranger than fiction. In a surprising turn of events the 2019 presidential elections in Ukraine have turned into the plot of a comedy series. That too starring Ukraine’s popular comic actor – Volodymyr Zelensky. The comic actor won the presidential elections with a vote of 73% against Ukraine’s previous President, Poroshenko. This surprising turn of events in made more absurd by the fact that Zelensky became popular in Ukraine through a comedy TV series in which he played a school teacher who accidently wins the Ukrainian presidential elections.
Zelensky is an actor and comedian with a law degree from Kyiv National Economic University. He is famous for his roles in feature films such as Love in the Big City and its sequel. In 2015, Zelensky starred in a comedy series called Servant of the People in which he plays the character that foretold his own life events. Zelensky and his character both gained the confidence of the Ukrainian people by their strong anti-corruption message as well as their abhorrence towards the old ways and cultures that had ruled Ukraine. This desire to reinvent the system and inject new blood into Ukrainian politics is most evidently seen by the novel method Zelensky ran his election campaign. He gave very few public interviews, and instead toured with his comedy troupe. His party was also named after the very TV show that brought him fame. Perhaps this unorthodox way of campaigning is what drew voters to him and allowed him to win the elections. This makes a lot of sense given how Ukraine’s economy has been very slow over the years and is projected to reach on par with Poland’s after half a century. It is clear that the voters in Ukraine had enough of the old ways and wanted to radically change how things were being done. This dissatisfaction with how the country was being run was what Zelensky leveraged to win the presidential elections. After winning the elections he has tried to bring the changes he had promised. While it is too soon to tell whether the comedy star could bring Ukraine out of economic dishevel, it is clear that the old guard is no longer tolerated by the society.
Zelensky’s first move was to dissolve the Ukrainian parliament. This was a strong message to the politicians that he meant to change the status quo. Although his political leanings are in line with those of Poroshenko’s he does not want to do them using the old ways. He has tried to change electoral system but this was blocked by the parliament. He has also tried to dismiss the country’s Foreign Minister, Minister of Defence and Head of the Ukrainian Secret Service but again these moves were blocked by the parliament. He has also tried to remove immunity from lawmakers, diplomats and judges but the matter is still being decided. These policies clearly show he is dedicated to fulfilling his electoral promises but at the same time he faces tough resistance from the system. It remains to be seen whether the he can live up to the expectations of the entire country.