Ukraine elects a neophyte as president

Volodymyr Zelensky © Getty images
Zelensky: facing reality

Volodymyr Zelensky was previously famous as a comedian who played “a character from a TV series, who becomes president by chance”; now he gets to play the role for real, says Katya Gorchinskaya in The Guardian. His victory in Sunday’s Ukrainian presidential election, despite having “zero political experience”, was born from deep anger at “the rule of old political elites” and years of IMF-backed austerity.

Expectations of the new president run high, with polls suggesting that many Ukrainians expect him to “reduce the cost of utility bills; strip immunity from prosecution from MPs, judges and the president himself ; and start or speed up the investigation of major corruption cases”.

Good luck with that, say Daryna Krasnolutska and Volodymyr Verbyany for Bloomberg. When he’s formally sworn in next month, Zelensky will “take stewardship of a country at war” – the country is still fighting Russian-backed separatists in its Donbass region – and “stuck in the middle of a geopolitical feud between the West and Russia”. The economy is also reliant on foreign aid, so Zelensky “will probably have to agree to a new aid package, including more potentially controversial economic reforms”. And as yet, the newcomer has no representation in parliament.

Of all his problems, relations with Russia are the most immediate, says Justin Lynch in Foreign Policy. President Putin refused to congratulate him, and there are rumours that Russia “may be ready to pounce… amid a military and naval build-up”. Zelensky is sure to find his sense of humour—and substance—tested in the very near future.