I am heartened and saddened by Ukrainian opinion polls. Saddened because Volodymyr Zelensky is in first place and according to these polls he could win in round 2. Heartened because in other opinion polls when Ukrainians are asked who they believe will win the elections only 5% say Zelensky.
Why there is such a discrepancy is a question for sociologists and not political scientists such as me. I would only caution that opinion polls failed to give us the right outcomes in the British Brexit referendum and the 2016 US presidential elections.
There are three very important reasons why a comedian such as Zelensky should not be president of Ukraine.
The first one is that Ukrainians are not only election a president but also a commander-in-chief in a time of war. 72% of Ukrainians believe Ukraine and Russia are in a state of war, including 62% in the south and 47% in the east. The war will continue for a long time and certainly until 2024 when Vladimir Putin and the next Ukrainian president both end their terms in office.
Responsibility for the war is placed on Vladimir Putin by Ukrainians which is why 80% hold negative views of him, the State Duma and Russian government. That is why Ukrainians believe there is greater chance of peace after 2024. But, sadly, they are wrong because they do not take into account that Putin is president for life. And even if he dies or is overthrown, there are many other Russian chauvinists similar to or worse than Putin in Moscow.
Therefore, Ukrainians are electing a commander-in-chief who will have to fight a war with Russia until the end of his term in 2024. That should be a person who has respect in the armed forces and Ukrainian citizens, who can successfully negotiate international support in the West and halt Russian aggression. That person cannot be a comedian with no experience of politics or international affairs!
The second is that electing a comedian would confirm in Moscow that Ukrainians are a fake nation. The roots of Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine is national identity with Russians believing Ukraine is an artificial and failed state and Ukrainians are a branch of the “Russian people.” Russia does not respect Ukraine’s right to exist, its sovereignty or territorial integrity.
Of course, the above is not true. But if Ukrainians elected a comedian all of the above would be confirmed in the eyes of Russian chauvinists, nationalists and imperialists. Moscow would even more so begin to look at Ukraine as fake news, a joke, a temporary entity that needed to be returned to the bosom of the Russian World.
Zelensky is still under the illusion that Ukrainians view Russians as their “brothers” – a majority no longer do. But, his willingness to go on his knees before Putin is nothing other than capitulation and surrender.
Я очень хочу обратиться к господину Путину. Уважаемый Владимир Владимирович! Не допустите со своей стороны даже намека на военный конфликт. Потому что Россия и Украина – действительно братские народы. Если вы хотите, я могу вас умолять на коленях. Но не ставьте на колени, пожалуйста, наш народ», – сказал он.
“I really want to turn to Mr Putin. Dear Vladimir Vladimirovich! Do not allow for your part even a hint of military conflict. Because Russia and Ukraine are really fraternal peoples. If you want, I can beg you on my lap. But do not put on your knees, please, our people”, he said.
Zelensky’s toadiness to Putin would spell the end of Ukraine’s integration into Europe and a return to a pro-Russian multi-vector foreign policy.
The third is that Ukrainians would be not just electing a comedian but a crook and a comedian. It is no secret that Ihor Kolomoyskyy is funding Zelensky and that he is seeking revenge on Petro Poroshenko for taking from him his two illegal sources of money – Pryvat Bank and UkrNafta. Kolomoyskyy is Ukraine’s biggest corporate raider and his reputation is nearly as bad as that of Rinat Akhmetov.
In electing Zelensky, Ukrainians would be giving their country over to Kolomoysky. This is what the oligarch expected President Poroshenko to do in 2014 as gratitude for his patriotism.
If Ukrainians elected the comedian Zelensky they will be first, ruining one of Poroshenko’s major achievements of building for the first time a Ukrainian army; second, they will be proving to Moscow that Ukraine and Ukrainians are fake news; and third, they will in electing Kolomoyskyy as Zelensky’s Chief of Staff, acting in contradiction of their own beliefs that oligarchs have too much power in Ukraine.
Ukrainians should not destroy their country and the last five years achievements by electing a comedian and Kolomoyskyy’s puppet.