By Cnaan Liphshiz
(JTA) — Volodymyr Zelensky, a Jewish Ukrainian actor who on television portrays the country’s leader, is set to reprise the role in real life following the country’s presidential elections.
President Petro Poroshenko conceded after losing the vote Sunday with exit polls showing Zelensky commanding a landslide victory, with polling at some ballot boxes giving him more than 70 percent of the vote, The Associated Press reported.
Zelensky, whose role on his prime time television show is of a teacher thrust to the presidency through an unlikely chain of events, was criticized for a vague campaign platform and having never held public office.
But voters appeared to have cast aside those concerns in favor of a thorough sweep of Ukraine’s political leadership. Many Ukrainians do not believe that Poroshenko has done enough to eradicate the corruption that helped fuel the 2013 revolution that toppled the regime of Poroshenko’s predecessor, Viktor Yanukovych.
“I have grown up under the old politicians and only have seen empty promises, lies and corruption,” Lyudmila Potrebko, a 22-year-old computer programmer who cast her ballot for Zelensky, told AP. “It’s time to change that.”
Zelensky. 41, became famous nationwide for his comic portrayal in a television series of a teacher who becomes president after a video of him denouncing corruption goes viral.
Born in Kryvyi Rih, near Dnipro, to a Jewish family of scientists, Zelensky rarely speaks of his Jewish ancestry in interviews. But, unlike some Ukrainian politicians widely believed to have Jewish ancestry, Zelensky’s campaign has neither disputed this or has attempted to camouflage it.