Comedian Turned Presidential Hopeful Kicks Off Campaign with Public Appeal
For many Ukrainians, comedian Volodymyr Zelenskiy is known for his role as unlikely president of Ukraine Vasyl Goloborodko in the popular satirical television series Servant of the People. However, after much speculation, the actor announced intentions to run in the real upcoming elections in a video released on New Year’s Eve. And it appears as though his approach to politics is as unorthodox as his candidacy itself.
In a social media video posted on January 8, Zelenskiy has appealed to the people for help in forming his political agenda. He asks that Ukrainians write to him outlining their top five priority issues.
“I think that old politicians live by this simple principle: don’t ask anyone anything, promise many things, don’t do anything. I am completely different. I am writing my program together with you. I’m writing it with the people, the whole country, then we will find ways to solve all the problems, and after that, we’ll implement them in real life,” the actor states.
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Differentiating himself from these “old politicians” appears to be a critical part of Zelenskiy’s candidacy. In yet another public appeal published on January 1, Zelenskiy sent out an open invitation for people to join his team. The only condition: applicants must have no previous experience in politics.
Zelenskiy first announced that he’s entering politics in an interview with regional publication NikVesti on December 25. He did not name any other party members, only saying that they’re lawyers from the Kvartal 95 television studio co-founded by him. A party with the same name as Zelenskiy’s show Servant of the People was registered in Ukraine back in December 2017. The named head of the party is the lawyer for the Kvartal who is also the studio’s art director.
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Despite this man-of-the-people approach, which in many ways mirrors his fictitious on-screen persona of President Goloborodko, there is still some skepticism surrounding Zelenskiy’s bid for the presidency. The comedian has been linked to Ukrainian oligarch Ihor Kolomoisky, who owns the 1+1 TV channel, which airs Servant of the People.
According to the sociological surveys, Zelenskiy’s chances of success are promising. Up until recently, he was polling at second place, behind frontrunner Yulia Tymoshenko, who is no stranger to politics having previously served as prime minister. But since the end of martial law and the long-awaited creation of an independent Orthodox Church in Ukraine, incumbent Petro Poroshenko has overtaken him.
The first round of presidential elections is set to take place on March 31, 2019, with the results to be officially announced no later than April 10.