A comedian is generally expected to be the next President of Ukraine, but the dominant scenario in Vladimir Putin’s satellite ~ remote controlled from the Kremlin since 2014 ~ is anything but comical. Having played the role of President in his own TV show, Volodymyr Zelenskiy is the favourite to become the next President through what is expected to be a “protest vote”. Clearly, a political satire on television is agreeable in a former Soviet satellite, though not in West Bengal where a political satire on celluloid has caused a flutter in the roost. It isn’t time yet for presidential grandstanding in Kiev; the results of last Sunday’s election will not be known before at least a month. Palpable, nonetheless, is the groundswell of disaffection against Putin’s nominee, Petro Poroshenko, the incumbent President, who is said to have made a fortune from his confectionery enterprise, not to forget the charge of corruption. It is a measure of the canker that the campaign plank of Yulia Tymoshenko was riveted to the issues that are close to the bone, specifically an increase in pensions and reduction of heating bills given the freezing climate.
Though Zelenskiy has little or no political experience, latest opinion polls suggest that he will eventually tilt the scales. Well might the political change in Ukraine be dramatic, if the interest evinced by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace is any indication ~ “The Zelenskiy phenomenon is the intelligent way to say ‘against all’. He has been tapping into the overall atmosphere of no-trust by offering his alternative presidency.” Five years after Moscow’s display of expansionist design, empirical data indicates that Ukrainian voters are frustrated with stalled reforms, a slow economic recovery, rising utility costs and a relentless war with Russian-backed separatists in the country’s south-east. The Crimea has been annexed, but the psephological swing in Ukraine will almost certainly bamboozle the Kremlin. According to data furnished by a polling agency, the structure of governance is now open to question ~ critically enough, 69 per cent of the respondents said they do not trust Poroshenko, 55 per cent do not trust Tymoshenko ~ who has spent more than two decades in Ukrainian politics ~ and barely 8 per cent of Ukrainians trust Parliament, and merely 16 per cent have confidence in the presidency.
It is pretty obvious, therefore, that the actor and comedian Zelenskiy is intent on exploiting the prevalent mood of discontent. In comparison to other candidates, Zelenskiy has focused less on Ukraine’s conflict with Russia, saying he wants to establish direct negotiations with Moscow to end the conflict in Donbass. In Servant of the People, he plays a teacher who becomes the President of Ukraine after his campaign against corruption goes viral. He has been likened to Donald Trump, but he would rather liken himself to Ronald Reagan, and has dubbed the late US President in a biopic on Ukrainian television. For all that, his policies remain vague and he himself is not a little surprised by the success of his campaign.