TV star Zelensky officially named new Ukrainian president
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TV star Zelensky officially named new Ukrainian president

Jewish comic defeated incumbent Petro Poroshenko in landslide win, now faces parliament dominated by allies of outgoing president

Ukrainian comedian and presidential candidate Volodymyr Zelensky gives a speech after the announcement of the first exit poll results in the second round of Ukraine's presidential election at his campaign headquarters in Kiev on April 21, 2019. (Genya SAVILOV / AFP)
Ukrainian comedian and presidential candidate Volodymyr Zelensky gives a speech after the announcement of the first exit poll results in the second round of Ukraine's presidential election at his campaign headquarters in Kiev on April 21, 2019. (Genya SAVILOV / AFP)

Election authorities in Ukraine have officially named TV star and comedian Volodymyr Zelensky as the country’s new president.

The Central Election Commission on Tuesday presented the official results of the April 21 vote, showing Zelensky beat incumbent President Petro Poroshenko by winning 73 percent of the vote.

Zelensky, who is believed to be Jewish, has criticized election authorities for dragging their feet on naming him the official winner, which reduces his chances of disbanding the parliament. Zelensky will be able to call an early election in the parliament, which is currently dominated by the allies of the outgoing president, only if he is sworn in before May 27.

The parliament now has a month to set the date for the inauguration ceremony.

Last week, following Zelensky’s election victory, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called to congratulate him and invite him to Israel.

Zelensky, a 41-year-old comic with no political experience, was elected on promises of change but has generally stood by the Western-oriented course of defeated president Poroshenko. Zelensky hailed his victory as a sign to people in post-Soviet nations that “everything is possible,” but he also has said he wants better relations with Russia.

The leaders of the United States, the European Union, Germany and France also phoned Zelensky to give their congratulations.

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday raised the possibility of meeting Zelensky in a move showing signs that Moscow might want to improve relations with the country, which soured after the 2014 annexation of Crimea.

Russian President Vladimir Putin gestures while speaking the the media after the Belt and Road Forum in Beijing, China, April 27, 2019 (Sergei Ilnitsky/Pool Photo via AP)

Putin said if they meet, he and Zelensky should discuss how to end Ukraine’s conflict with Russian-backed separatists in its southeast.

“If we have a meeting sometime, begin some negotiations, which I do not rule out, then we will first of all have to talk about how to end the conflict in the southeast of Ukraine,” Putin said at a news conference.

Following Zelensky’s victory, Ukraine has become the only country in the world besides Israel whose president and prime minister are both Jewish.

When Zelensky is sworn in as president, his prime minister — at least for a while and possibly until the parliamentary elections scheduled to take place sometime later this year — will be Volodymyr Groysman, a Jewish politician who was the mayor of the city of Vinnytsia.

Last year, Ukraine was singled out as a regional trouble spot in the Israeli government’s annual report on anti-Semitism.

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