Ukraine's comedian president will face serious challenges
Volodymyr Zelensky, a television comic they voted into the president's office on Sunday in an apparent landslide -- he garnered about three times as many votes as his opponent, according to early projections - will inherit a massive to-do list for a country that is in the midst of a simmering conflict with Russia, has fallen to become one of the poorest countries in Europe, and confronts perceptions of corruption, BBC reports.
Proving himself capable to skeptical opponents and the international community will be crucial. Well before Sunday's second round of voting, Zelensky's opponent, incumbent President Petro Poroshenko, was painting the 41-year-old self-made entertainment businessman as weak on Russia, inexperienced, and as a puppet of the billionaire oligarch who owns the TV channel that airs Zelensky's show.
Figuring out what Zelensky actually stands for in domestic matters isn't easy -- and no less so on foreign matters, including future dealings with Russia. The feared Russian interference and manipulation in the elections appears to have been present, but it didn't make quite as big a splash as some had worried. It could be that the Kremlin opted to just sit back and watch as Ukrainians removed Poroshenko, a man Russia may feel they can no longer do business with.
"For Zelensky, winning was the easy part. The hard part will be building a coalition of parties in the parliament to help him deliver or his administration will not succeed. Forget the claims that he's a clown and knows nothing. He likely won't be able to do much in the next six months because every political party is positioning itself for the October parliamentary elections and will want to prevent Zelensky and his party from any real legislative success. Expect gridlock and massive fighting in the Ukrainian parliament in the next sixth months if the governing coalition holds," said Melinda Haring, editor of the Atlantic Council's UkraineAlert blog and a senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute.