He played a president on TV, and now he’s running for president of Ukraine. Volodymyr Zelenskiy has no real political experience whatsoever. Yet he’s leading the polls in the first round of Ukraine’s presidential election as of April 1. 

Zelenskiy is the leading candidate with 30.26 percent of the vote, outpacing the next candidate, Petro Poroshenko who has only 16 percent. Poroshenko is the current President of Ukraine, in office since 2014.

In contrast, Ex-Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko trailed behind in third with 13 percent support.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko gestures as he arrives at a polling station during the presidential election in Kiev, Ukraine, Sunday, March 31, 2019. Voters in Ukraine are casting ballots in a presidential election Sunday after a campaign that produced a comedian with no political experience as the front-runner. (AP/Efrem Lukatsky)

There are a total of 39 candidates. Because no candidate will receive 50 percent of the vote, the top two will move ahead to the runoff on April 21. So far, it looks like the comedian and the current president will be the top two candidates in the runoff.

The frontrunner’s leap to fame wasn’t his comedy, but his dancing. He became a household name while participating in the Ukrainian version of “Dancing with the Stars.” 

A Fresh Start for Ukraine

The strong lead may be a reflection of the public’s longing for a new leader who has no links to Ukraine’s corruption-riddled political elite, according to the Associated Press.

Poroshenko promised the conflict with Russia would resolve within a few weeks when he was first elected. The now five-year conflict with Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine has killed 13,000 people and pushes on, according to news website Haaretz.

Not the First

Zelenksly would not be the first comedian to serve in public office. In 2010, Reykjavik, Iceland, elected comedian Jon Gnaar as mayor of the country’s capital.

When Gnarr ran for mayor, he promised voters free towels, a polar bear, and a Disneyland in Iceland. He didn’t expect to be taken as a serious candidate. To his surprise, Gnarr won.

Gnarr created a political party called “Best Party” and he says he started it all as a joke. A self-described anarchist who is touted as having saved Iceland from bankruptcy, he had four successful years as mayor.

However, he said that he became sad, tired, and frustrated. After his term, he left politics altogether.

Gnarr told Nas Daily, “Turns out politics is much more about influence than ideals.”

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