Ukraine

Comedian known for playing president on TV wins Ukrainian election

Volodymyr Zelensky
Ukrainian comedian and presidential candidate Volodymyr Zelensky shows his ballot to the media at a polling station. Photo: Genya Savilov/AFP/Getty Images

Comedian Volodymyr Zelensky, who plays president on a popular television show, has defeated incumbent President Petro Poroshenko with more than 70% of the vote to win Ukraine's presidential election, according to exit polls.

The big picture: This was Ukraine's first presidential election without a clear pro-Kremlin candidate, reflecting a shift for a country that has been increasingly drawn toward the West since the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014. Zelensky, who lacked any sort of a formal campaign, has promised that as a fresh face on the political scene, he can shepherd lasting structural change that career politicians cannot.

Ukraine's TV president on verge of turning fiction into reality

"Are you politically active?" Zelensky undergoes a blood test in Kiev ahead of his debate with Poroshenko. Photo: AFP/Getty

Ukraine appears to be 3 days away from electing a man best known for playing a president on TV as its actual president.

Why it matters: One recent poll shows Volodymyr Zelensky leading incumbent President Petro Poroshenko by a whopping 47 points ahead of Sunday's runoff. It's all the more remarkable because Zelensky has hardly campaigned and has few clear policy positions.