The world is not so much a stage as a simulacrum for those who think it so. And if the stage goes bad, it is fitting that those who get thrown onto it change it in the most daring and provocative way. Politics is now as much a director’s production as it is an estranging show for the participating voter. The shock to such formulae is when a political aspirant decides to either reject the director’s cut entirely or, as in the case of Ukraine, embrace it as a mocking demonstration of bankruptcy. We know it is a joke: vote for me as a true expression of the authentic.
The sheer scale of repudiation by the voters on Sunday is striking, saying as much about the victor as the defeated. Comedian Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s triumph in an election without precedent (almost 40 presidential candidates, and victory for a Jewish one) was crushing, coming in at 73% over incumbent Petro Poroshenko. Holographic presence on screen – a comedian playing a character in a series who becomes president after a video rant on corruption goes viral – turned reality. “Could I ever imagine that I, a simple guy from Kryvyi Rih, would be fighting for the presidency against a person who we confidently and definitively elected President of the Ukraine in 2014?”
Hope is often a devalued currency, but its vigorous circulation can be gathered in the measurements of public opinion by the Kyiv-based International Institute of Sociology (KIIS) conducted this month. Deputy Chief Anton Hrushetskiy reported findings of 2004 respondents to the question “Which of the following should the president do in the first 100 days?”
The list is meaningfully desperate and vengeful against state officials: a touch under 40% wish a slash in utility rates; 35.5% demand a removal of immunity for lawmakers, judges and the president; 32.4% wish for an opening of investigations and a speeding up of current ones into corruption-related crimes and abuses; 23.3% hope for commencing talks with Russia; 18.4% demand a reduction of wages of top officials. All this stands to reason: Zelenskiy offers something others have not: a tabula rasa upon which voters can impose their vision. In contrast, Poroshenko, candy billionaire with an acid aftertaste, offered the usual cluttering: Army,