41-year-old VOLODYMYR ZELENSKY, popular comedian (best known as an actor in his comedy troupe Kvartal 95) initially brushed off by Ukraine’s political elite as a novice, won the nation’s presidential election in a landslide vote Sunday, according to exit polls.
He earned more than 70% of the votes, the polls showed, and his supporters expressed hope that the victory would usher in a new generation of leaders committed to weeding out oligarchs and political corruption.
Zelensky was running against incumbent President Petro Poroshenko, a billionaire chocolate tycoon whose term began in 2014 just months after massive street protests forced a Kremlin-favored president to flee the country and ensured the post-Soviet republic’s pivot away from Moscow.
Many supporters said they were voting for Zelensky not because they backed whatever largely unstated plans he might have for running the nation of 44 million, but because they sought to reject Poroshenko’s entanglement in Ukraine’s corrupted political elite.
Zelensky, after kissing his wife and thanking his parents, told supporters at his election headquarters, “We did this together.”
“To all the citizens of post-Soviet countries: Look at us. Everything is possible,” he said in a veiled nudge at Russia, where President Vladimir Putin was reelected last year in a Kremlin-controlled process with no real political opponents.