New Ukrainian leader’s tough task

By Lu Wenao Source:Global Times Published: 2019/4/22 21:52:22

Comedian Zelensky expected to win presidency

Ukrainian presidential candidate Volodymyr Zelensky Photo:Xinhua

Ukrainians have chosen comedian Volodymyr Zelensky as the nation's next president, as the initial results showed the 41-year-old with no political experience trouncing incumbent president Petro Poroshenko by taking 73.2 percent of the vote. 

It was an extraordinary outcome to the campaign of Zelensky, known for starring in satirical TV series Servant of the People in which his character accidentally becomes Ukrainian president.

The result indicates that Ukrainian voters are frustrated by corruption and social injustice, with the war in eastern Ukraine, which has claimed some 13,000 lives since 2014, being put back under the spotlight. 

The battle in Ukraine's industrial east has put a huge burden on the country's economy and society, though numerous efforts, both domestically and internationally, have been made to stop the bloodshed.

Many voters believe starting talks with Ukraine's major neighbor Russia will be a solution, which Poroshenko refused to do so as he traded insults with the Russian leadership during his presidency. 

Zelensky, accused by Poroshenko of lacking political experiences in handling the issue, may use his outsider status to reach a deal with Kremlin.  

And on Monday, Russia indicated an interest in restarting talks with Ukraine, as Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said "there is a chance for improving cooperation with our country."

"The election results clearly show that voters are eager for new approaches to resolving Ukraine's problems," Medvedev said in a Facebook post on Monday, noting he has no illusions of Zelensky who has repeated the similar rhetoric toward Russia.

Assembling the right team will be crucial for the novice president, as he has to negotiate with various political forces to push for the much-needed reforms in the country. 

Zelensky does not have a proper political party of his own and will likely face big resistance in the parliament where Poroshenko's faction has the most seats. New parliamentary polls are due in October.

Kiev secured a $17.5 billion deal led by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in 2014 to support its struggling economy. But it also means that the pressure will rise in the next few years for Zelensky as Ukraine's debt obligations mount.

The disbursement of the funds has often been delayed as Poroshenko's government struggled to push through reforms required by the IMF. Looking east a little bit more may help Ukraine ease the issue.

Though there is no Ukrainian delegation this week to attend the Belt and Road Forum, which aims at promoting international cooperation, China would be happy to see Ukraine join the Belt and Road Initiative, which Kiev's neighbors Russia and Belarus have done. 

"China is willing to work with Ukraine to promote the development of bilateral cooperation in various fields under the framework of the Belt and Road initiative," China's Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said Monday on Zelensky's victory.

Poroshenko met with Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of multilateral meetings, but bilateral relations between China and Ukraine remain lukewarm. Now Zelensky has the chance to change that.


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