New Ukrainian leader's campaign had pages from sitcom script

Combined Shape

MOSCOW (AP) — The president-elect of Ukraine does not have a political record that foreign governments and companies can search for clues. For now, a 51-episode TV sitcom might offer the clearest view of what kind of leader Volodymyr Zelenskiy will be.

Zelenskiy, a career comedian, foretold his future when he took the starring role in “Servant of the People.” The series, created by Zelenskiy’s production company, follows a high school teacher who finds himself elected to Ukraine’s highest office thanks to a recorded rant that goes viral.

The show, which premiered in 2015, is the first Ukrainian series bought by Netflix. In an interview earlier this year, Zelenskiy told foreign journalists he wanted to put “a dream country” on the small screen. The latest season was filmed and aired after Zelenskiy declared his candidacy for the real presidency on New Year’s Eve.

Further blurring the line between fiction and reality, he named his political party “Servant of the People.” The TV character and the first-time candidate also overlapped at times on the campaign trail:

SEPARATISM AND THE WAR IN THE EAST

Trending:
CNN's Don Lemon Fails to Get Guest to Take 'Bait,' Instead Gets Contradicted on Slavery

The dispute over Russia’s annexation of Crimea and a deadly separatist war in eastern Ukraine are likely to dominate Zelenskiy’s agenda.

Zelenskiy, a Russian speaker from central Ukraine, said earlier this year he doesn’t see military force as an option for bringing either area back under Kiev’s wing. He said the government should reach out to welcome the eastern territories to a new Ukraine.

“We need to send a message that we are all Ukrainians,…that you’re one of us,” he said.

In the latest season of “Servant of the People,” Zelenskiy’s character, Vasyl Holoborodko, assumes the presidency of a country split into 28 independent states, some of which resemble actual separatist fiefdoms in eastern Ukraine.

“Enough with the old slogans: north, west, south. We’re one country, we’re all Ukrainians,” the fictional President Holoborodko tells two separatist leaders in one episode of the TV show.

Holoborodko rejects the idea of bribing or intimidating the separatists into reuniting. At the end of the latest season, Ukraine’s east and west come back together following a joint effort to help coal miners trapped underground.

___

OVERHAUL OF GOVERNMENT

After an exit poll predicted he won nearly three out of every four votes, Zelenskiy on Sunday reiterated a campaign promise to fire Ukraine’s prosecutor general for an appointee of his own. He called the chief prosecutor part of “the old team.”

Related:
Police Respond to Simultaneous Mass Shooting and Fire in Maryland Neighborhood

In the first season of “Servant of the People,” the president character pushes out existing officials with reputations for corruption and abusing power.

“You and your allies have been at the helm for nearly a quarter of the century,” Holoborodko tells the fictional prime minister in Episode 6. “And what changes do we see? Zero. Zero changes, zero reforms.”

But Holoborodko is despondent because he can’t find a single honest professional to appoint. He ends up putting his school friends in top posts, attracting accusations of cronyism.

During an actual presidential debate Friday, Zelenskiy was surrounded by literally the same people – the actors who played his Cabinet ministers on TV. The president-elect has not announced who he wants to appoint, but no peers from acting or comedy have shown interest in following Zelenskiy into politics.

___

PERKS AND PRIVILEGES

Zelenskiy said as early election returns came in that he would cut the presidential administration budget, get rid of the perks that come with public office and move the seat of government out of central Kiev so “there is no traffic.”

“I would like to find a place in Kiev or outside Kiev so that there would be no motorcades, and I would like to get rid of the motorcades altogether,” the comedian said.

The scripted president of “Servant of the People” gives up his motorcade in Season 1 and takes the bus or taxis to work. He pushes through a bill to relocate executive branch offices to a Soviet-era pavilion on Kiev’s outskirts.

“We will free the center of Kiev from those traffic jams.” Holoborodko tells lawmakers.

The character ends up hiring back the bodyguard he fired and being driven in a car after he narrowly escapes a group of taxi drivers angry about his crackdown on gypsy cabs.

___

RELATIONS WITH OUTGOING LEADER

Zelenskiy spent a huge portion of his campaign lambasting traditional politicians for alleged corruption, the topic of the viral video that put his TV character in office.

At Friday’s debate in front of nearly 60,000 people, Zelenskiy called incumbent Poroshenko “a wolf in sheep’s clothing” and accused him of abusing power for personal enrichment.

Poroshenko tweeted that the Kremlin would be “celebrating” the election of a “new, inexperienced Ukrainian president,” but also called Zelenskiy later Sunday to concede defeat and offer his assistance.

Likewise, Zelenskiy on Sunday refrained from attacking Poroshenko and said of the president’s offer to help, “if I really need to call him, I will.”

In the fourth episode of “Servant of the People,” the teacher-turned-president must deal with a crestfallen predecessor who locks himself in his office, gets drunk and refuses to come out.

“They’ve stolen the country from me, an entire country,” the fictional outgoing president says.

In the end, the new president convinces the outgoing leader to go peacefully.

The Western Journal has not reviewed this Associated Press story prior to publication. Therefore, it may contain editorial bias or may in some other way not meet our normal editorial standards. It is provided to our readers as a service from The Western Journal.

Truth and Accuracy

Submit a Correction →






We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.

Tags:
The Associated Press is an independent, not-for-profit news cooperative headquartered in New York City. Their teams in over 100 countries tell the world’s stories, from breaking news to investigative reporting. They provide content and services to help engage audiences worldwide, working with companies of all types, from broadcasters to brands.
The Associated Press was the first private sector organization in the U.S. to operate on a national scale. Over the past 170 years, they have been first to inform the world of many of history's most important moments, from the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and the bombing of Pearl Harbor to the fall of the Shah of Iran and the death of Pope John Paul.

Today, they operate in 263 locations in more than 100 countries relaying breaking news, covering war and conflict and producing enterprise reports that tell the world's stories.
Location
New York City




Conversation