A comedian who plays Ukraine's president on TV is leading polls in the country's actual presidential race

  • Volodymyr Zelensky, an actor who’s running for president in Ukraine, led in two polls conducted in early February, ahead of the country’s presidential election on March 31.
  • Zelensky, 41, stars in “Servant of the People,” a TV show where he plays a teacher who is elected president of Ukraine.
  • Though Zelensky has no political experience, he has described himself as “very liberal” and said he would speak directly with Russian President Vladimir Putin about the war in eastern Ukraine.

A comedian who plays Ukraine’s president on TV is running for president in the country and led in two polls conducted earlier this month.

Volodymyr Zelensky, 41, stars in “Servant of the People,” a TV show where he plays a history teacher who is elected president of Ukraine after his anti-corruption rant goes viral, NBC News reported.

Zelensky, who has no political experience, had the largest share of support among respondents in a poll conducted earlier this month by Ukraine’s Razumkov Center, the Interfax-Ukraine news agency said. The country’s presidential election is set for March 31.

The poll found that 17.5% of respondents would vote for Zelensky, while 13.1% would vote for the incumbent, Petro Poroshenko, and 11.5% for former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko.

Another poll from early February, by the Kiev International Institute of Sociology, also found higher support for Zelensky than for Poroshenko or Tymoshenko.

Zelensky has described himself as “very liberal,” NBC News reported. Bloomberg said he launched his populist campaign on January 1 “to coincide with the president’s New Year’s address.”


Read more:
The US Navy has sent another ship into the Black Sea, where Ukraine is preparing for another Russian attack

Zelensky, also a lawyer and businessman, has a unique approach to campaigning. NBC News said he doesn’t hold rallies but sells tickets to comedy gigs in which he parodies his competition and shares “behind-the-scenes campaign videos” on Facebook and YouTube.

If he is elected president, Zelensky will face ongoing tensions with Russia, which annexed Crimea in 2014, as well as a crumbling economy and widespread corruption, NBC News reported. Zelensky has also said he would speak directly with Russian President Vladimir Putin about the war in eastern Ukraine.

And Zelensky said in December that wouldn’t oppose negotiating with US President Donald Trump, joking that they “are both from the same industry after all,” according to NBC News.

Zelensky has faced criticism from supporters of Poroshenko who called him a “clown” and accused him of devaluing the presidency, and from others who accused him of being a puppet of a Ukrainian oligarch, Bloomberg reported.

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.