Comedian Volodymyr Zelensky appeared on track yesterday to become Ukraine’s next leader as incumbent Petro Poroshenko fought for his political survival three days before a presidential run-off vote.Polls showed Zelensky, a 41-year-old standup comic and television star with no political experience, sailing to victory in Sunday’s second-round vote.
His surge in popularity is a rebuke to Ukraine’s political elite, who have struggled to revive the economy and put an end to a conflict with Russian-backed separatists in the country’s east.
Critics fear that a Zelensky presidency could throw the country into chaos, but the comedian has promised to surround himself with able advisors and on Thursday was set to reveal his “dream team”.
Anticipation was also building ahead of a presidential debate due on Friday, the first and only one of the presidential campaign.
The two candidates confirmed on Wednesday they would take part in the debate in a sports arena that seats 70,000 people.
Zelensky’s spokeswoman Iryna Pobedonostseva said he was looking forward to facing off with his rival.
“Preparations for the debate are in full swing. You will see the results tomorrow,” she told AFP.
Zelensky suggested he would have an easy time in the debate given Poroshenko’s record.
“I don’t want to call anyone names, insult anyone or engage in mud-slinging,” he told local media.
“After what has been done over the last five years I believe I can simply keep mum.”