Life has imitated art. Volodymyr Zelensky, the comedian who has played an accidental president in the satirical Ukranian TV serial Servant of the People for the last three years, has actually become president in a landslide. He will assume office in a month, and in that time, the laughing millionaire with absolutely no political, diplomatic or military experience will have to hammer out a policy direction for his government, which is no laughing matter. The moneybags of Kiev do not expect to be laughing all the way to the bank, either, because they have no idea about Zelensky’s economic beliefs. If he has any, at all.
Zelensky has come to power with a margin of 73 per cent simply by marking himself apart, as an outsider to the system of corruption, lying and incompetence that people have grown to abhor. But as an outsider, he does not have a clearly articulated policy, either at home or abroad. He has avoided media interviews, preferring to promote himself and his Servant of the People party through internet videos. But now, he will have to take the reins of a nation which serves as the front in the ongoing battle between the Western powers and Russia. He is a comedian in urgent need of a policy.
But in an age of clowns, a professional comedian could have a fighting chance. Over the last couple of years, we have seen more than one instance of ballistic missile-rattling in international affairs, which is slapstick humour at its blackest. And there have been several instances, from South Asia to the US, of popular leaders being elected on the rather fuzzy promise of being radically different from their predecessors. But we’ll all be laughing the other side of our faces if we only get the jokers in the pack.