Ukraine's New Comedian President Calls for Snap Elections

Clay Curtis
May 21, 2019

The ceremony included Zelensky taking an oath and receiving the President of Ukraine's regalia including a sign, a seal and a club.

Andriy Bohdan, adviser to Volodymyr Zelenskiy, said in televised remarks Tuesday that the president would send the decree in the coming days.

Elections to the Supreme Rada were scheduled for October 27, which raised the prospect of Zelenskiy struggling to enact his agenda in the face of a hostile parliament over his first few months in power.

Ukraine's new President Volodymyr Zelensky used his inaugural speech on Monday to announce a snap election, before promising to end the country's five-year conflict with Russian Federation. Zelenskiy told lawmakers they only have a few weeks to support his motions as that's as long as the current parliament has.

Experts say that Zelenskiy, who won the presidency with over 70 percent of the vote, is calling early elections in order to ride his campaign's wave of momentum and ensure that his new political party obtains seats in parliament.

In a bid to deprive Zelenskiy of the opportunity to call an early election, a faction in the Rada announced its departure from the ruling coalition last week, technically collapsing Poroshenko's government.

Parliamentary rules prohibit it from being disbanded for 30 days after a coalition breaks up, a delay that would create another delay since it would mean the parliament would already be in the final six months of its a term, when it can not be dissolved. Parliament is still dominated by the bloc named for Zelenskiy's defeated opponent Petro Poroshenko and smaller parties founded mostly as personal vehicles for political insiders.

Mr. Zelenskiy's landslide victory reflected Ukrainians' exhaustion with widespread corruption and the country's political elite.

Zelenskiy grew to national fame playing the TV comedy role of a schoolteacher who unexpectedly becomes president after a pupil films him making a foul-mouthed tirade against corrupt politicians and posts the video online.

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He ditched the idea of a traditional motorcade to his inauguration, walking to the parliament Kiev through a park packed with people. Flanked by four bodyguards, he was giving high-fives to some spectators and even stopped to take a selfie with one of them.

Zelenskiy called on lawmakers to use the two months until the election to pass laws that would strip them of immunity from prosecution and ban officials from enriching themselves.

Zelenskiy's attempt to dissolve the parliament already faces a challenge.

Mr Zelensky said Ukraine's "next challenge is the return of the lost territories", referring to Moscow-annexed Crimea and the separatists' self-proclaimed republics.

Defense Ministry Stepan Poltorak promptly published his letter of resignation on Facebook.

Kiev resident and Zelenskiy supporter Mykola Korniyenko welcomed the president's move to dissolve parliament.

He urged ministers to also resign, despite Ukrainian law obliging the government to do so only after parliamentary elections.

New Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy took his oath of office and delivered an inaugural speech in which he announced the dissolution of parliament in Kiev.

"I'm ready to do everything so that our heroes don't die there", he said.

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