19 | JUL | 2019
Comedian Volodymyr Zelenskiy wins Ukraine Presidential Election
Volodymyr Zelenskiy reacts during a news conference at his campaign headquarters following a Presidential Election in Kiev, Ukraine - Photo: Valentyn Ogirenk/REUTERS

Comedian Volodymyr Zelenskiy wins Ukraine Presidential Election

22/04/2019
16:01
Reuters
Kiev
Andrew Osborn & Matthias Williams
-A +A
Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s win was a bitter blow for incumbent Petro Poroshenko and presents a riddle for investors, the West and Russia who wonder what approach he will take

Ukraine entered uncharted political waters on Monday after near final results showed a comedian with no political experience and few detailed policies had dramatically upended the status quo and won the country’s Presidential Election by a landslide.
 

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Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s win was a bitter blow for incumbent Petro Poroshenko and presents a riddle for investors, the West and Russia who wonder what approach he will take on everything from relations with Moscow to the domestic banking sector.

Zelenskiy, 41, will take leadership of a country on the frontline of the West’s standoff with Russia following Moscow’s annexation of Crimea and its support for a pro-Russian insurgency in eastern Ukraine.

In Sunday’s second-round vote, Poroshenko, 53, had tried to rally voters, casting himself as a bulwark against Russian aggression and a champion of Ukrainian identity.

But Zelenskiy, best known for playing a fictitious president in a TV show, trounced him, winning 73% of the vote, central election commission data showed after over 99% of votes were counted.

In a victory speech on Sunday night, Zelenskiy promised he would not let people down.

“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 is expected to take office next month.

Zelenskiy, the latest anti-establishment figure to unseat an incumbent, both in Europe and further afield, has promised to end the war in the eastern Donbass region and to root out corruption amid widespread dismay over rising prices and sliding living standards. But he has not said exactly how he plans to achieve all that.

Investors want reassurances that he will accelerate reforms needed to attract foreign investment and keep the country in a multi-billion dollar International Monetary Fund program.

Parliament calls many of the shots in Ukraine and Zelenskiy could struggle to get lawmakers’ approval for new policies since his own party has no seats and a faction loyal to Poroshenko is the biggest force.

Zelenskiy has the right to propose certain cabinet jobs, like that of foreign minister, but much of the current government is likely to remain in place until the next parliamentary election, which is due in October.
 

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The United States, the European Union, and Russia will be closely watching Zelenskiy’s foreign policy pronouncements to see if and how he might try to end the war against pro-Russian separatists that has killed some 13,000 people.

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

Critics accuse the president-elect of having an excessively close relationship with powerful oligarch Ihor Kolomoisky, whose TV channel broadcasts his comedy shows.

Zelenskiy has promised not to be unduly influenced by Kolomoisky. But the fate of PrivatBank, Ukraine’s largest lender which was nationalized in 2016, is set to be one of the earliest and most important tests of that pledge.

The government wrested PrivatBank from Kolomoisky as part of a clean-up of the banking system backed by the IMF. However, a Kiev court ruled last week that the change of ownership was illegal.

Zelenskiy has repeatedly denied he would seek to hand PrivatBank back to Kolomoisky if elected or help the businessman win compensation for the ownership change.

The IMF will also be watching closely to see if Zelenskiy will allow gas prices to rise to market levels. That is a politically sensitive issue and one Zelenskiy has been vague about.

sg

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