Volodymyr Zelenskiy has united a polarised country by rejecting angry nationalism – but his politics offer no panacea

A politically inexperienced comedian, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, is in the lead after the first round of presidential elections in Ukraine – and by a huge margin. He is almost 15 percentage points ahead of the incumbent president, Petro Poroshenko. Zelenskiy’s unconventional campaign, relying primarily on Instagram and a TV show in which he plays a fictional Ukrainian president, proved to be far more successful than Poroshenko’s attempt to impose a choice of “me or Putin”.

Poroshenko’s main messages of “army, language and faith”, as well as his recent nationalist initiatives, would easily see him branded as far right in any other European country. Yulia Tymoshenko, a veteran of Ukrainian politics who led the polls until January, failed to present a clear alternative to Poroshenko’s aggressive nationalism and ended up in third place in Sunday’s first-round vote. The candidates appealing to Russian-speaking voters in Ukraine’s south-eastern regions failed to unite. The most popular among them, Yuriy Boiko, came fourth.

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Read More A comedian could be Ukraine’s next president. How did that happen? | Volodymyr Ishchenko

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