Politics

From comedian to ‘political animal’: Zelenskyi’s two-year transformation

By Olga Tokariuk

Kiev, Ukraine, May 19 (EFE).- Before he was elected in 2019 — with an impressive 73% of votes in the runoff against the incumbent Petro Poroshenko — Ukraine’s president Volodomyr Zelenskyi, who marks two years in office on Thursday, played the lead role in the widely popular TV series Servant of the People.

He stormed onto the political stage as an ‘anti-system’ candidate, pledging to clean up politics from oligarchic influences and jail corrupt officials.

Two years on, Zelenskyi has delivered only on a quarter of his electoral promises, analysis by the Committee of Voters of Ukraine shows. Worse still, the areas that he has delivered in — land reform, changes to criminal cases involving senior officials and improving infrastructure — are not priorities for most people in a country where corruption is rife, quality of life is low and a separatist war is being fought in the east.

“The fundamental provisions of the program on the end of the war, improving the quality of life, fighting corruption, and carrying out important reforms have not been fulfilled,” the committee concluded.

Despite that, Zelenskyi is still generally popular in Ukraine. Between 28% and 31% of voters would vote for him in a first round of elections if they were held today, according to two polls in early May by Kyiv International Institute of Sociology and Razumkov Center, roughly the same level of support he received in the first round in 2019.

Political scientist Volodymyr Fesenko believes that it is still an impressive outcome. “His voters expected him to make a miracle, to solve all Ukraine’s problems. This didn’t happen,” he tells Efe.

“However, a catastrophe, a collapse of the Ukrainian state, which former president Poroshenko and his supporters predicted, didn’t happen either.”

Fesenko says Zelenskyi has gone from a political novice to an ever more assertive leader in both domestic and foreign policy.

The former comedian’s role as a real-life president has forced him to become a “political animal,” a classic president, despite his initial anti-system positions, Fesenko says.

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