Did his popularity in the television comedy series convince the public that even in reality he could be an excellent president? Or did his pro-western economic recovery plan get the voters out? Either way, Ukraine has just elected a Jewish comedian in a landslide victory to lead the country into its unpredictable future.
Vladimir Zalinski, a famous Jewish comedian in Ukraine, succeeded in defeating incumbent President Pietro Poroshenko. According to the polls, Zalinski won more than 70 percent of the vote.
In his tremendously popular Ukrainian TV comedy, Zalinski plays the character of a poor schoolteacher who becomes a national sensation when a spur-of-the-moment outburst against politicians and their corruption is caught on video by a bystander and goes viral. Overnight, the humble schoolteacher becomes a candidate for the presidency, going on to win the election supported by the angry voters who have had more than enough of the crooked political establishment.
To clarify, and not confuse fiction with reality, a nation of 44 million people just elected a Jewish comedian who plays a fictional Ukrainian president on TV!
Zalinski, the 41-year-old comedian whose hit TV show is called Servant of the People, used the title of the comedy series as his campaign slogan! He even used videos of scenes from the fictional series in his campaign promotions! It is hard not to compare this phenomenon with the election of Donald Trump, who used his popular show The Apprentice to propel himself into the White House. It also fits with the mood in democracies around the world towards electing well-known personalities willing to shake up the perceived corruption in traditional governments.
Like Donald Trump, and Benjamin Netanyahu as well, Zalinski ran his campaign on social media and public appearances. Zalinski maintains strong connections with Alex Kuyominsky, a wealthy Jewish philanthropist who became an outspoken critic of Ukraine’s outgoing president Pietro Poroshenko.
In his campaign, Poroshenko viciously charged Zalinski with being “the puppet of the billionaire who lives in Israel.” So now a country whose Jewish population was decimated in some of the world’s cruelest antisemitic pogroms over the past hundred years (reduced from 870,000 to 17,000 in WWII alone), boasts a Jewish Prime Minister in Vladimir Grossman, who is openly proud of his Jewishness, and a new Jewish president.
It will be interesting to see how the fictional TV president who is now the actual leader of this important post-communist nation will deal with his Jewish heritage and show his support forIsrael. The former comedian will now need to address some very serious matters, including Ukraine’s failing economy, Russia’s aggressive takeover of Crimea and the growing interference of the Russian-Iranian-Turkey axis in opposition to the American-Israeli alliance in the Middle East conflicts.