From Playing the President to Being the President- Ukraine’s 2019 Elections


Maxim Stoyalov, Claude Truong-Ngoc, Alexander Krassotkin / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0 [CC BY-SA 3.0 (]

Comedian Volodymyr Zelensky (left) won the Ukrainian election for presidency against current president Petro Poroshenko (right) on April 21, 2019 by a massive landslide.

Leslie Tello, Journalist

On Sunday, April 21, Ukraine elected comedian Volodymyr Zelensky to be its new president.

Despite having no political experience, Zelensky beat his competitor by a major landslide; with 73.17% of the vote, he was able to surpass his opponent, Petro O. Poroshenko, the current president of Ukraine. He will become the first Jewish president in Ukraine’s history.

Before throwing his hat into the ring, he was best known for his starring role in the TV show, “Servant of the People,” where he played a teacher who inadvertently became the president. Although many expected a grand and flashy campaign from the actor, he never directly came into contact with his supporters. According to Politico, “he addressed voters through short YouTube and Instagram posts and appearances on TV.”

He was also very vague with his positions. CNN states, “Although Zelensky never provided any clear policy goals, what did emerge from his campaign platform was his attention to starting fresh and a vow to fight against corruption and oligarchy.” The New York Times also states that he “has shunned populist themes like hostility towards immigrants and minorities.”

When asked why people would support an unorthodox politician over an experienced one, freshman Sara Mahho said that a need to “try something different” may drive a voter to elect an unqualified person. Many Ukrainians were dissatisfied with Poroshenko’s approach to a 5-year proxy war with Russia and failed attempts to fight corruption; they elected Zelensky only to prevent Poroshenko from taking office again. Zelensky used Poroshenko’s shortcomings to his advantage during his campaign. In an article, the New York Times states, “Referring to a 2017 pledge made by Mr. Poroshenko to tackle graft and ‘cut off the hands of those who steal in the army,’ Mr. Zelensky asked, ‘Why do your people all have both their hands?'”

Before the election, Poroshenko warned the public about the effects of voting for an incompetent president. The New York Times states that he said, “that voting for a comedian ‘is not funny’ and could lead to ‘painful’ consequences.” After, he accepted his loss and congratulated Zelensky. Sophomore Giselle Trujillo also believes it is dangerous to vote for a popular president over a prepared one. She said he was not gaining the position for his knowledge, but rather for his TV program, which does not demonstrate he’s capable of being the president. “That’s acting; acting isn’t real life.”

According to The New York Times, Zelensky said, “Thanks to all the Ukrainian citizens who voted for me, and to all who didn’t. I promise I won’t mess up,” after winning. Only time will tell if he’s capable of keeping his promise to the Ukrainian people.