Ukraine Elects Political Outsider as New President

On April 21, 2019, Ukraine elected Volodymyr Zelenskiy as the country’s new President by a landslide. Zelenskiy defeated incumbent President Petro Poroshenko, receiving over 73% of the vote. A political novice, Zelenskiy is best known for his career as a famous comedian, actor and screenwriter in Ukraine. One of Zelenskiy’s most famous roles was on the TV show “Servant of the People,” which features him as a school teacher who accidentally becomes president.

Elected in 2014, Poroshenko came to power after an uprising overthrew the previous pro-Russian government. Ukraine has been at war with Russian proxies for almost the entirety of Poroshenko’s presidency and it appears that Zelenskiy’s “Ukraine first” message resonated with voters. That said, Russia’s actions in the region will be a major issue for Zelenskiy to handle when he is officially sworn in as president.

Like many candidates who have run as political outsiders, Zelenskiy ran on a platform that promised to bring change to Ukraine. Unlike other political outsiders who have been elected recently, Zelenskiy did not run on an anti-immigrant and anti-minority platform. Instead, Zelenskiy focused on cracking down on government corruption, poverty, and tackling the country’s economic problems. Currently, many Ukrainians are leaving the country looking for work in other EU nations, and Zelenskiy will have to find ways to keep more of this talent in Ukraine.

Zelenskiy’s campaign is also interesting as it was run with a nontraditional, “virtual-first” strategy. In place of traditional large-scale campaign rallies, Zelenskiy addressed voters through YouTube videos and posts on social media platforms such as Instagram and Facebook. Instead of giving stump speeches laden with policy positions, during the campaign Zelenskiy continued to travel and perform in variety shows with his comedy troupe. Zelenskiy capitalized on his celebrity and was largely able to avoid having substantive policy discussions while on the campaign trail.

How This Impacts Mobility

The lack of substantive policy outlined by Zelenskiy in his campaign leaves some uncertainty as to what his presidency will look like. It is good news for the mobility industry that he did not run on an anti-immigrant platform in the same way as other outsider candidates have done recently in Europe. One of the main reasons Zelenskiy was elected was to fix Ukraine’s struggling economy. If he can boost the country’s economy, there may be an increase in demand for talent to be moved into Ukraine. Keeping peace at the country’s Eastern border will also be crucial for Zelenskiy to keep conditions stable for the mobility industry. Worldwide ERC® will continue to provide updates as President-elect Zelenskiy begins releasing new policy proposals.

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