KIEV: Ukraine readied on Saturday for a change in leadership as a young comedian appeared set to crush his incumbent rival in presidential polls, delivering a stinging rebuke to the old elite.
The 41-year-old television star Volodymyr Zelensky’s bid to lead Ukraine began as a long shot but all polls show him defeating President Petro Poroshenko in a second-round vote on Sunday.
His victory would open a new chapter in the history of a country that has gone through two popular uprisings in two decades and is mired in a five-year conflict with Moscow-backed insurgents in the east.
Despite mounting uncertainty Ukrainians are fed up with corruption, poverty, and the war that has claimed some 13,000 lives over the past five years.
“There is a hope that a simple man will better understand us and dismantle the system that we have in our country,” Yuliya Lykhota, 29, said in Kiev. “It is very important to raise our people’s spirits.”
Others said they doubted the political novice’s ability to enact real change as Ukraine’s sixth president.
“I do not believe he will last long once he’s elected,” said Sergiy Fedorets, 62. “He has no support in parliament. He’ll be eaten alive.”
Poroshenko came to power after a bloody 2014 uprising ousted a Kremlin-backed regime, triggering Moscow’s annexation of Crimea.
But many in the country of 45 million people feel the promises of the uprising have not been fulfilled.
Zelensky has capitalised on popular anger as well as his popularity as the star of the sitcom “Servant of the People”, in which he plays a schoolteacher who becomes a president.
Analysts say his political programme is vague at best and it remains unclear who will fill key positions in his government.
Ahead of the vote a popular news website published an interview with a therapist who pointed to severe anxiety in the country.
Published in Dawn, April 21st, 2019