Jewish comedian gets top votes in Ukrainian election

Exit polls show Volodymyr Zelensky with 30.4 percent of the vote in the first round of Ukraine’s presidential election.

Ben Ariel,

Ukraine
Ukraine
Yahav Gamliel/Flash 90

A Ukrainian comedian who is Jewish was the top vote-getter in the first round of Ukraine’s presidential election on Sunday, JTA reported, citing exit polls.

The polls showed Volodymyr Zelensky with 30.4 percent of the vote.

At least half of the vote is required to win. A run-off is scheduled for April 21.

Zelensky will face either incumbent Petro Poroshenko, who is seeking a second term and is showing 17.8 percent in the exit poll, or former prime minister Yulia Timoshenko, who polled at 14.2 percent in the run-off, but is disputing the results.

Timoshenko also is rumored to be Jewish.

Zelensky, a Ukrainian-Jewish comedian who portrays a history teacher turned president in his hit television show “Servant of the People”, has been branded by the local media as “the Ukrainian Donald Trump.”

Born in Kryvyi Rih, near Dnipro, to a Jewish family of scientists, Zelensky has not mentioned his Jewish identity in interviews before or during the campaign, which critics say is purposefully vague.

When a reporter asked him how he would deal with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Zelensky reverted to his comic roots, replying: “I would speak to him at eye level.” It was a reference to his and Putin’s being at least three inches shorter than Poroshenko’s six feet.

As of 2012, Ukraine had the fifth-largest Jewish community in Europe and the twelfth-largest Jewish community in the world, behind South Africa and ahead of Mexico.

The majority of Ukrainian Jews live in the cities of Kiev, Dnipro, Kharkiv and Odessa. The majority of the Jews who remained in Ukraine in 1989 left Ukraine and moved to other countries in the 1990s during and after the collapse of Communism.




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