Comedian Elected President of Ukraine in Landslide

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22 April, 2019

World leaders congratulated comedian Volodymyr Zelenskiy Monday on being elected president of Ukraine.

The country's Central Election Commission reported that Zelenskiy received 73 percent of the vote, with nearly all ballots counted. Incumbent President Petro Poroshenko received 24 percent.

Zelenskiy had no political experience before running for president. He is best known for playing the president in a Ukrainian comedy show. The show, called "Servant of the People," is about a Ukrainian high school teacher who becomes president by chance.

One of Zelenskiy's campaign messages centered on his desire to unify the country. Ukraine has been divided over repeated debates about national identity. The country is also at war with rebels in the east. The rebels receive support from Russia's government.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and his wife Maryna greet their supporters who had come to thank him for what he did as a president, in Kiev, Ukraine, Monday, April 22, 2019. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and his wife Maryna greet their supporters who had come to thank him for what he did as a president, in Kiev, Ukraine, Monday, April 22, 2019. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

Election experts said Zelenskiy appeared to have won in both western and eastern areas, a rare happening in post-Soviet Ukraine.

Poroshenko had appealed to voters to choose him so he could continue on a path to bring Ukraine closer to the West. He had also campaigned on a promise to fight government corruption.

Election monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) were in Ukraine for the voting. The group said the election respected "fundamental freedoms" and prepared the way for a "democratic and orderly" change of power.

Declaring victory Sunday night, Zelenskiy told supporters he would not let the Ukrainian people down. "As a citizen of Ukraine, I can say to all countries in the post-Soviet Union: Look at us. Anything is possible."

Zelenskiy has promised to reduce corruption, which many Ukrainians see as the reason for rising prices and worsening living conditions. Zelenskiy said he also plans to continue the pro-European path that Poroshenko began, and will aim to improve his country's ties with Russia.

A spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin, Dmitry Peskov, said on Monday it was "too early to talk about (Putin) congratulating Mr Zelenskiy, or about the possibility of working together." Peskov added that Russia "respects the choice of the Ukrainian people" and will wait for steps by Zelenskiy before making judgments.

U.S. President Donald Trump and French leader Emmanuel Macron called to congratulate Zelenskiy on his win. German Chancellor Angela Merkel also pledged her support.

In a joint letter to Zelenskiy, EU Council President Donald Tusk and European Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker praised Ukrainians for their "strong attachment to democracy and the rule of law."

I'm Bryan Lynn.

Bryan Lynn wrote this story for VOA Learning English based on reports from the Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse. Ashley Thompson was the editor.

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Words in This Story

comedian n. a person who performs in front of an audience and makes people laugh by telling jokes or funny stories or by acting in a way that is funny

incumbent n. a person who holds a particular office or position

fundamental adj. relating to the most important or main part of something