Ukraine presidential election: Comedian Volodymyr Zelenskiy wins

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Ukraine presidential election: Comedian Volodymyr Zelenskiy wins

He recently starred in a TV series in which he played a history teacher who is elected president after his rant about government corruption goes viral.

Comedian Volodymyr Zelenskiy won Sunday’s runoff election in Ukraine, ousting incumbent President Petro Poroshenko in a landslide.

With over 90 percent of the ballots counted, Zelenskiy had 73 percent of the vote with Poroshenko at just under 25 percent.

Zelenskiy, 41, also took the first round of the election on March 31.

The former entertainer and political novice recently starred in a popular TV series, “Servant of the People,” in which he played a history teacher who is elected president after his rant about government corruption goes viral.

Zeleskiy declared victory Sunday night at his campaign headquarters.

“I’m not yet officially the president, but as a citizen of Ukraine, I can say to all countries in the post-Soviet Union look at us. Anything is possible!”

he said.

Zelenskiy is now poised to take over the leadership of a country on the frontline of the West’s standoff with Russia following Moscow’s annexation of Crimea and support for a pro-Russian insurgency in eastern Ukraine.

An emotional Poroshenko conceded defeat to his supporters, some of whom were crying.

Poroshenko said on social media he thought Zelenskiy’s win would spark celebrations in the Kremlin.

“They believe that with a new inexperienced Ukrainian president, Ukraine could be quickly returned to Russia’s orbit of influence,”

he wrote.

Throughout his campaign, Zelenskiy has stressed that he’s unmarred by political “filth,” and vowed to change the system.

But his outlined policies were largely vague and short on detail.

Nevertheless, his message of change resonated with voters across the war-torn country with a flailing economy.

“It’s very important that this voting is based on reason,” said Poroshenko, while casting his vote accompanied by his grandson earlier Sunday. “It might be fun and hilarious at first, but I don’t want it to get painful later,” he added, in what appeared to be a reference to Zelenskiy’s comedy career.

The two clashed in a much-publicized debate at the nation’s largest sports arena Friday, hurling insults and attacking each other’s vision for Ukraine’s future.

Asked by the moderators to pose a “yes or no” question to each other, Zelenskiy didn’t hesitate, looking Poroshenko in the eye and saying: “Are you not ashamed?”

Poroshenko’s response, muted by loud cheering from the comedian’s supporters, was – no. “I am proud of Ukraine and the last five years,” the former president said.

But many Ukrainians don’t share that view. Despite his uncompromising efforts to keep the country on a pro-European path, Poroshenko has been accused of reluctance to tackle rampant corruption, a failure to reinvigorate the economy and an inability to end the war with pro-Russian separatists in the east — a five-year-long conflict that he promised to resolve in just two weeks before he swept to power in 2014.

“I am the result of your mistakes and promises,” Zelenskiy told Poroshenko during Friday night’s debate. “I am not your opponent,” he said, pointing a finger at the president. “I am your sentence.”

Zelenskiy has pledged to keep Ukraine on a pro-Western course, but has sounded less emphatic than Poroshenko about possible plans for the country of 42 million people to one day join the European Union and NATO.

Source: nbcnews.com