Ukrainian actor, comedian and political newcomer Volodymyr Zelensky was announced as the winner of Ukraine’s presidential elections Sunday.
Zelensky held 73 percent of the vote with 90 percent of ballots counted, compared to incumbent Petro Poroshenko who took 25 percent, NBC News reported. Zelensky had beaten Poroshenko in the first round of voting in late March but had failed to garner a majority, leading to the runoff, reported The New York Times.
Poroshenko will exit the country’s leadership after serving since 2014.
Zelensky, 41, ran for president while starring in the popular show “Servant of the People,” in which he portrays the country’s president. He led Poroshenko in polls in the months ahead of the election. (RELATED: A Christian Businesswoman Says She Has Been Wrongly Imprisoned In Kuwait Since 2018. Easter Sunday Could Be Her Chance To Get Out)
His victory means a new strategy for Ukraine when dealing with its neighbor Russia. Zelensky said if elected he would negotiate directly with Russian President Vladimir Putin because he is ready “to negotiate with the devil himself as long as not a single life is lost,” reported NBC News.
Poroshenko dealt with escalating tensions between Russia and Ukraine for the past several years, and he has sought to align Ukraine with the West and separate the country from Russia after Russia annexed Crimea in 2014. Tensions were especially high between Russia and Ukraine in November 2018 when the Russian coast guard fired on and seized three Ukrainian vessels in the Black Sea, raising fears the undeclared conflict between the two countries would shift to open war.
Zelensky studied law but found success in comedy instead. He took an unorthodox approach to campaigning by “selling tickets to gigs at which he parodies many of the politicians he is running against,” according to NBC News. His supporters also tune into his videos on social media, a tactic that’s new in Ukrainian politics.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko looks at his watch as he is waiting for presidential candidate Volodymyr Zelensky for a debate before a high-stakes run-off vote at Olympiysky Stadium in Kiev on April 14, 2019. (SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP/Getty Images)
Zelensky has stated he’s a member of the brand new Servant of the People party, created after his show became a success.
The economy also loomed large in the election. Ukraine is Europe’s poorest country according to International Monetary Fund data cited by The Washington Post. Zelensky touted that he would listen to Ukrainians’ economic concerns, while Poroshenko hammered resisting Russia.
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