KIEV—A Jewish comedian won Sunday the first round of Ukraine’s presidential election. With over 70 percent of the polling stations counted, Volodymyr Zelenskiy had 30 percent support in Sunday’s vote, while current President Petro Poroshenko was a distant second with just over 16 percent.
41-year-old Zelensky will face either Poroshenko or former Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko, who is in third place with 13 percent support according to early results.
The strong showing for Zelenskiy reflects the public longing for a fresh leader who has no links to Ukraine’s corruption-ridden political elite. He has called for direct negotiations with Russia on ending the 5-year conflict with the separatists in the Dombass province in eastern Ulraine.
Zelensky, whom the local media call “the Ukrainian Donald Trump,” portrays a history teacher turned president in his hit television show “Servant of the People.”
He was born to a Jewish family of scientists but never mentioned his Jewish identity in interviews before or during the electoral campaign. His father Oleksandr Zelensky is a professor who heads an academic department of cybernetics and computing hardware at the Kryvyi Rih Institute of Economics.
Zelensky studied law at the Kyiv National Economic University department in his native Kryvyi Rih, but he hasn’t worked professionally in the legal field.