Why a Comedian Won Ukraine’s Presidency in a Landslide

Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s Victory Is the Punchline to Decades of Misrule

Ukrainian presidential candidate Volodymyr Zelenskiy reacts following the announcement of the first exit poll at his campaign headquarters in Kiev, April 2019 Valentyn Ogirenko / REUTERS

The global wave of protest populism that began with Brexit and the election of U.S. President Donald Trump reached new heights in Ukraine this weekend. A comedian outsider whose campaign served as an echo chamber for public discontent in Europe’s most consistently corrupt nation has won a landslide victory in the presidential race. Ukraine’s new president-elect, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, is in many ways the ideal poster boy for the antiestablishment trend currently sweeping world politics. A media-savvy TV celebrity who has never previously held political office, he has made a virtue of his inexperience by posing as an everyman candidate untainted by the rot within the system. Zelenskiy’s stunning success—he won the Ukrainian presidency by a record margin and triumphed in all but one of the country’s 24 administrative regions—amounted to a vote of no confidence in the entire Ukrainian political class. Whereas other populists

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