While Ukraine has freed itself from Russia’s political grasp, the Soviet culture of kickbacks and embezzlement remains a daunting challenge for any future president, even one who has played the part of many of the country’s leaders on television.
Comedian and Presidential Contender to Challenge Ukraine's Kickback Culture
Ukraine’s long history of government corruption may be coming to a timely end—at the behest of a stand-up comedian. After a fiercely-contested campaign, beloved comic Volodymyr Zelensky has won more votes than Ukraine’s long-time billionaire president Petro Poroshenko, triggering a run-off election. If Zelensky were to become Ukraine’s president, then it would be no laughing matter; his presidency may offer Ukraine it’s best hope of saving the impoverished nation’s economy.
When the comedy star turned presidential candidate first nabbed a big lead over Poroshenko, he understandably caused quite a stir. My parents and relatives in Ukraine, for instance, have long enjoyed Zelensky’s humorous skits on the Ukrainian version of Saturday Night Live, but doubts remain about the political newcomer’s ability to reign in corruption and end the war against Russia backed rebels in the nation’s eastern regions. Nevertheless, it seems that Zelensky, much like President Donald Trump, has been able to mobilize his colorful publicity to strike a chord with the Ukrainian public.