An exit poll from Ukraine’s presidential election shows comedian Volodymyr Zelensky winning with 73 percent of the vote against incumbent Petro Poroshenko.
Zelensky was born in 1978 to Jewish parents in Krivyi Rih, a predominantly Russian-speaking industrial city in southern Ukraine. He left to pursue a career in show business; in 2003, he and two friends from his hometown founded the film studio Kvartal95 in the capital, Kiev.
The studio became enormously successful throughout the post-Soviet world, and several of Zelensky’s Kvartal95 colleagues now play key roles in his campaign team, Haaretz reports.
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The comedian would thus become Ukraine’s first Jewish president, making his country the only one outside of Israel to have both a Jewish president and prime minister; Volodymyr Groysman took the latter post in April 2016.
His rival Poroshenko has fought to integrate the country with the European Union and NATO, while strengthening the military which is fighting Kremlin-backed separatists in the east of the country.
Zelensky has tapped into the anti-establishment mood, though his inexperience makes Western officials and foreign investors wary and skeptics question his fitness to be a wartime commander-in-chief.
Inviting comparisons with U.S. President Donald Trump and Italy’s Five-Star movement, his campaign has relied heavily on social media and comedy gigs of jokes, sketches and song-and-dance routines that poke fun at his political rivals.