According to exit polls, millions of voters – weary of war and economic hardship – have thoroughly rebuked the incumbent elites, overwhelmingly voting for 41-year-old TV comedian Volodymyr Zelenskii in Ukraine’s presidential election today.
“I voted for Zelenskii because everything he said is true,” said Viktoriia Bengalska, a 45-year-old secretary in Kiev.
“It’s impossible to survive on this salary, prices have increased like crazy, and we were promised something totally different.”
With no political record (aside from playing the president on TV), Zelenskii crushed President Petro Poroshenko, who was running for his second five-year term, with 73% of the vote.
The comedian had been a heavy favorite ahead of today’s election according to polls.
“To all Ukrainians, no matter where you are, I promise that I will never let you down,” Zelensky said after the results came in.
“Though I’m still not president, I can say as a Ukrainian citizen to all the countries of the former Soviet Union: Look at us. Everything is possible.”
As The Washington Post notes, Zelenskii’s apparent victory is the latest in the global trend of political outsiders harnessing TV and social media to out-muscle the unpopular establishment.
“Zelenskii doesn’t have experience, and Putin is a very dangerous adversary,” said Volodymyr Fesenko, a political analyst in Kiev.
“There’s a lot of risk here.”
What happens next? The Saker explains one of two things is most likely:
Option A: Zelenskii will rapidly and energetically resume all the rabid russophobic policies of his predecessor. The topics of the Donbass and Crimea will be front and center of Ukie propaganda. At this point, Russia might as well recognize the outcome of the election (I don’t see a point in pretending that Zelenskii did not “kinda” get a popular mandate) and, in the same breath, recognize the two Novorussian Republics and let them conduct a referendum on their future.
Option B: Zelenskii will rapidly and energetically try to stop (or, at least, “freeze”) the conflict with Russia and with the Donbass. If he does that, the Kremlin will see that Zelenskii is trying to cut his losses and gain political credibility by stopping the war in the Donbass and the (utterly stupid and self-defeating) confrontation with Russia.