A comedian who shot to fame for playing the role of a president is currently topping opinion polls ahead of Ukraine’s election.
Volodymyr Zelensky has never held political office, and his only connection to politics is when he played a man who accidentally became Ukraine’s president in the 2015 television series Servant Of The People. Now, the 41-year-old has topped an opinion poll with 20.9%. On Sunday, Ukrainians will choose from 39 candidates for a president they hope can solve the country’s biggest issues including endemic corruption, a struggling economy and a seemingly intractable war with Russian-backed separatists in the country’s east. During his presidential campaign, Mr Zelensky said he would develop the economy and attract investment in Ukraine through “a restart of the judicial system” should he be elected president. He also proposed a tax amnesty and a 5% flat tax for big business which could be increased “in dialogue with them and if everyone will agree”. The incumbent, President Petro Poroshenko, is running for another term but the recent poll by the Kiev International Institute of Sociology showed he has the support of just 13.7% of voters.
The 53-year-old came to power in 2014 with the image of a “good oligarch”, and was nicknamed the Chocolate King because most of his fortune came from the Roshen confectionery company. His critics say he has done little to combat Ukraine’s endemic corruption, as well as failing to end the war in the East. He has also made economic reforms that pleased international leaders but impacted the Ukrainian people with higher utility bills. Yulia Tymoshenko, who has served twice as prime minister, is making her third run at the presidency and came third in the poll with 9.7%. She is focusing on the economic distress of millions of Ukrainians, promising to reduce prices for household gas by 50% within a month of taking office. Ms Tymoshenko became prime minister after the 2004 Orange Revolution protests in which she was a major figure. However her image was tarnished after she argued with then president Viktor Yushchenko, and she subsequently lost to Moscow-leaning Viktor Yanukovych in the 2010 presidential election. If no candidate gets an absolutely majority of the votes on Sunday, there will be a run-off between the top two on 21 April.