Ukraine’s president will need our help

By

Opinion

April 24, 2019 - 10:03 AM

Ukraine's new president, Volodymyr Zelensky

It’s a moment of truth for Ukraine. Volodymyr Zelensky has won a landslide victory in the second round of Ukraine’s presidential election, vanquishing the incumbent, Petro Poroshenko. Most Ukrainians know Zelensky as a fictional TV character on the hit show “Servant of the People,” where he plays an ordinary citizen fed up with Ukraine’s pay-to-play political system. On the show, Zelensky’s character miraculously gets elected president after one of his rants against corrupt politicians goes viral. Now fiction has become fact as Zelensky prepares for a real-life inauguration later this spring.

Having run a campaign light on policy specifics, Zelensky is now about to show Ukrainians what kind of leader he will really be. In contrast to his carefully scripted TV persona, Zelensky is not exactly an ordinary citizen. He is, rather, a member of the elite, one who reportedly owns a lavish Italian villa and has close personal ties to at least one of Ukraine’s wealthiest — and most controversial — oligarchs, Ihor Kolomoisky.

While we don’t yet know what sort of president Zelensky will be, it is clear what sort of president Ukrainian citizens want him to be. Opinion polls consistently show Ukrainians want three things from their political leadership. First, they want a statesman who will stand up to Russian aggression and restore Ukraine’s sovereignty. Second, they want a reformer who will take a battering ram to the oligarchic system that corrupts Ukraine’s politics and economy. Finally, they want someone who will strengthen economic growth, boost wages and create jobs.

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