The 41-year-old Ukrainian comedian, Volodymyr Zelensky has won the country’s presidential election runoff vote, defeating incumbent President Petro Poroshenko with more than 73 percent of the vote against about 25.
Zelensky’s appears to have won the elections so decisively in spite of how his Jewish ancestry – his mother, Rima, is Jewish and he has jokingly referred to this during the campaign — is well known in Ukraine.
Poroshenko admitted defeat on Sunday at a press conference and promised to assist the new president prepare for the role and his inauguration.
“Next month, I will leave the office of the head of state. This is the decision of the majority of Ukrainian people. I accept this decision. I am leaving the office, but I want to highlight that I am not leaving politics. I will fight for Ukraine,” he said.
“My team and I are ready to support the president in everything that gets us close to the European Union and NATO. And between the official announcement of election results and his inauguration, I am ready to spend any length of time without any restrictions on helping the new president get up to speed,” said Poroshenko.
The star of the Servant of the People television sitcom also told reporters he would “reboot” peace talks with the separatists fighting Ukrainian forces and volunteers in the east.
“I think that we will have personnel changes. In any case, we will continue in the direction of the Minsk [peace] talks and head towards concluding a ceasefire,” he said.
Zelensky, whose mother, Rima, is Jewish, has ingratiated himself with the Ukrainian public with such jokes as the star of “Servant of the People” – a primetime television show where he portrays a teacher thrust by an unlikely chain of events to become Ukraine’s president. He announced his candidacy in January, becoming an instant favorite.
This popularity has allowed Zelensky to both win on an unusually vague platform and distinguish himself from his professional politician rivals, with their proclivity to hyperbole and nationalist slogans.