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Why Putin might worry about Ukraine’s president-elect

 

 

A landslide victory on the scale of Ukraine’s president-elect, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, is the kind of electoral result you might expect from his larger, autocratic neighbour to the east.

But there are no question marks over the legitimacy of this vote or the strength of the democratic mandate it gives Ukraine’s new leader.

This was a cry from the gut of the Ukrainian people that they are fed up with what’s gone before. It is as much an expression of rage as it is an endorsement.

Between media appearances at campaign HQ, Mr Zelenskiy recorded a video message for distribution on social media.

His Facebook and Insta-driven campaign looks set to continue in his presidency.

He is promising to listen. His message is power to the people, direct democracy. A populist message par excellence – easy to say, harder to manage with the challenges Ukraine faces.

Let’s list them.

Deep-rooted corruption.

The ongoing war in the east which has killed 13,000 so far.

A resurgent Russia next door which will be looking to exploit Mr Zelenskiy’s inexperience.

Plus a fundamental mistrust in government institutions, many of which he will have to clean up at the very least.

But luckily for Mr Zelenskiy, I don’t think Ukrainians are expecting miracles. They know the war won’t be stopped at the drop of a hat. They know Vladimir Putin is dangerous.

They have such low expectations of their government, even small achievements may mean something. When you come from such a low base, you’re grateful for scraps.

And Russia’s president may not be watching this result with the glee some have suggested. Not least the outgoing president in a slightly bitter tweet sent just after he had announced he would cede ground.

[The Kremlin] believe that with a new inexperienced Ukrainian president, Ukraine could be quickly returned to Russia’s orbit of influence, Petro Poroshenko wrote.

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