Ukraine: Zelensky or Poroshenko?

Comedian Volodymyr Zelensky and incumbent Poroshenko will vie for Ukraine's presidency in the second round of voting on Sunday. Zelensky won the first round with roughly 30 percent of the vote, while Poroshenko trailed behind with around 16 percent. Does Poroshenko still have any chance of turning the tide?

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Kommersant (RU) /

How the president could still win

Kommersant imagines scenarios that would cost Zelensky his victory in the elections:

“Even if the scenarios seem unlikely, they can't be ruled out entirely. In Ukraine anything is possible. The first scenario would be some kind of disaster, an act of God that radically changes the situation: for example Zelensky disappearing, going crazy, withdrawing his candidacy, saying that it was all just work on a new TV series, or if he were to flee the country and seek refuge with his patron, the oligarch Kolomoyskyi. Or if he were to shout 'Long live Putin' when he enters the Olympic Stadium in Kiev. The second scenario would be extreme electoral fraud that gave the electoral commission the courage to declare Poroshenko president. Supporters of this version believe that he who wins the 'battle for the Central Electoral Commission' will win the vote.”

Ukrajinska Prawda (UA) /

The voice of hatred

Journalist Roman Romaniuk explains in Ukrayinska Pravda why Vladimir Zelensky will no doubt soon encounter problems with his voters:

“He's sure to get the backing of all those who hate Poroshenko. ... But that doesn't mean by a long shot that this is only a problem for Poroshenko. For Zelensky it poses an even bigger problem. Because by trying to get everyone who hates the government on his side, the man who could well soon become president is running a huge risk. As soon as Poroshenko evacuates his seat, Zelensky will have to deal with all this hatred on his own. It seems as if in recent weeks Zelensky and his team have been led by the motto: 'You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can be used against you.'”

Lietuvos žinios (LT) /

The virtual is winning out over the real

The Ukrainian election campaign has shown how important the virtual world has become, comments Lietuvos žinios:

“If the team of incumbent President Poroshenko finds somewhere where Zelensky is weak and tries to attack it with traditional means, it hardly bothers Zelensky's supporters. Because he'll just pick up his smartphone and post some funny comment or other that will then be read and shared instantly by millions of people on the social networks. ... In these elections the virtual political world is coming up against the real one. For this campaign you don't even need a candidate - his image alone is enough.”

Frankfurter Rundschau (DE) /

Zelensky understands Russia

If Zelensky wins the second round Ukraine would move away from the West again, the Frankfurter Rundschau believes:

“Zelensky is not from the Russian-speaking east of the country. But when he appears in public he embodies a kind of post-Soviet attitude that feeds on anti-Western resentment. He may not be Vladimir Putin's puppet, but he is a 'Russia understander'. In a way reminiscent of Donald Trump he announced that as president he would talk to Putin - and listen to what he had to say. Then he'd have his say, and in the end they'd meet in the middle, he said. That, however, would not only be naive but also an admission that Putin has a say in Ukraine's fate.”

Radio Kommersant FM (RU) /

Kremlin secretly rooting for Poroshenko

Moscow does not prefer Zelensky over Poroshenko at all, Radio Kommersant FM counters:

“Despite everything Poroshenko is a tried and tested partner. He may bark, but his bite is harmless. The operation in the Sea of Azov with ships headed by an old tugboat was more like a show, a comedy in fact. ... Under Poroshenko the oligarchs are in power, just like they were with Yanukovych. ... Poroshenko is for the most part made of the same stuff as today's Kremlin politicians. But Zelensky is a nightmare for Moscow. ... He doesn't fit into any known category and there's no way of reaching out to him.”

Revista 22 (RO) /

Ukraine always good for a surprise

It's practically impossible to predict who will be president in three weeks' time, political commentator Armand Gosu writes in Revista 22:

“Voters in Ukraine can elect a comedian who has slipped into the role of a populist politician, who has no experience to speak of, no team, no political programme, and no clear stance on Crimea, Donbass or Russia. The alternative is an oligarch from the old political guard: a president accused of corruption who's surrounded by a dubious team but who has the huge advantage of being predictable both for Ukrainian voters and Western governments. ... Bearing in mind how unpredictable Ukrainian voters are it would be no surprise if despite everything President Poroshenko prevailed in the second round.”

The Irish Times (IE) /

This comedian could make a lasting impact

Zelensky could have a lasting impact on Ukraine's political landscape, The Irish Times believes:

“Younger Ukrainians in particular doubt that the billionaire Poroshenko or former gas industry executive Tymoshenko will root out vested interests, prompting many to pin their hopes on an entertainer whose campaign provided a social media masterclass but little policy detail, and who also has business links with a shadowy oligarch. Even if Zelenskiy misses out, he may use his momentum to form a party to compete in October's parliamentary elections. Whoever wins this year's polls, they would do well to remember that in Ukraine - unlike in neighbouring Russia - the top political tables turn quickly and often.”

NV (UA) /

For the young the election was just for fun

Writer Boris Khersonsky draws three conclusions from the vote in Novoye Vremya:

“1. This is a protest vote. The people are sick of the elites and weary of corruption. ... 2. We have complained bitterly that the young people voted with their feet - or rather that they didn't go out to vote. This time the role played by young people appears to have been far bigger than ever before. But the young seem to have voted more for fun than driven by a sense of responsibility. The collapse of the education system has finally reached our voters. 3. A similar scenario occurred in the United States, where a 'popular wave' brought a rather comical and unprepared contender to power. In the US, however, other powers - Congress and the judiciary - check those of the president. Here at home there are no restraints on the executive.”

La Stampa (IT) /

Ready for a compromise with the devil

Russia correspondent Giuseppe Agliastro points out differences between the second round candidates in La Stampa:

“When they choose between Poroshenko and Zelensky voters will decide how the country should get out of the economic swamp and put an end to the fighting in Donbass. Both remaining candidates are pro-Western but their plans regarding the conflict are very different, and according to experts Zelensky has greater chances of Putin listening to him than Poroshenko. Zelensky has explicitily said that to resolve the crisis it will be necessary to talk to the 'devil', in other worlds the Kremlin, and that a compromise will be found. But what it will look like remains unclear.”

Wedomosti (RU) /

Who Russia wants to win

Political scientist Alexey Makarkin explains in Vedomosti whom the Kremlin would vote for:

“I think the Russian state would prefer Zelensky. ... This hope would be based on the fact that he's likely to be a weak president. He's inexperienced and doesn't have a team. It looks like he himself didn't expect his campaign to be so successful. ... The worst winner for Russia would be Poroshenko. When he put himself up for election for the first time he was seen by many in Russia as an entrepreneur who could try to reach compromises with Russia. But as it turned out he is a very different kind of person. He took on the role of supreme commander and has no intention of making any concessions.”

Delo (SI) /

Better a farce than an eternal tragedy

There's no point expecting too much from TV comedian Zelensky, Delo warns:

“There are too many competing interests and too many influential players behind the scenes - not to mention the more or less open interests of international players - for any real changes to take place. It's not hard to play the president on television, but it takes real players to play a role in the (geo)political comedy. However, as is unfortunately often the case, this reality could once again become a farce for the Ukrainian people. But even that would be better than for them to be eternally doomed to the tragedy in which many of them are already living.”