The frontrunner in Ukraine’s presidential election, Volodymyr Zelensky, has no political experience beyond playing the head of state in a TV show, but supporters see him as their best hope for change.
“In a storm, any port will do,” says Andriy, a Ukrainian businessman who has come to watch comedian and candidate Zelensky perform in a sketch show in Kiev ahead of the crucial March 31 poll.
“We don’t know what kind of politician he will be. We just hope that he will be a change for the better, a light at the end of the tunnel,” adds the 42-year-old.
The election in corruption-riddled Ukraine, which is fighting a war against Russian-backed separatists in its east, was set to be a head-to-head between two political heavyweights.
But incumbent Petro Poroshenko and ex-prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko appear to have failed to inspire the electorate, who see them as having done little to improve living standards during their terms in office.
Instead 41-year-old Zelensky, best known for his entertainment production company Kvartal 95 and playing the lead in political comedy “Servant of the People”, has shot to pole position.
His support is around 25 percent — well ahead of his closest rivals.
Supporters see him as a breath of fresh air, but critics say his manifesto is vague and a country at war should not be taking a chance on a political novice.
“Zelensky’s a new name, a new leader. He’s never been in politics,” Sergiy Dovgiy tells AFP ahead of the show at a packed Kiev concert hall this week.
The 52-year-old entrepreneur says he will “probably” vote for the performer.
– Reagan, Schwarzenegger –
Zelensky’s lack of military experience does little to discourage his fans.
“We have already seen how others with a great deal of experience have messed things up,” says spectator Andriy.
“He’s not going to have to run through fields with a Kalashnikov in his hand — he has to form a team of generals, economists and politicians, and direct them,” Andriy adds.
Lilia Polishchuk, a 28-year-old who works in tourism, is less equivocal in her support.
“He’s a self-made man, he does cool projects…he’s very intelligent,” she says.
“Young people who want change are going to vote for him,” Polishchuk adds — a claim that is backed up by opinion polls.
The lion’s share of Zelensky’s support — around 38 percent — comes from people aged 18 to 25, according to a recent survey by the non-governmental polling organisation Rating Group.
Aside from the youth vote, he is particularly popular in the south and east of the country, which are largely Russian-speaking.
But at the Kiev comedy show, where Zelensky is barred by law from campaigning he is nonetheless landing blows on his rival Poroshenko, not everyone is a fan of his leadership ambitions.
“We watch all his films and shows,” says 28-year-old Daryna Netessa, who has come with her mother.
“But in politics, you need someone with experience and training.”
Sergiy Yankovenko, 36, disagrees.
“Ronald Reagan was an actor as well,” says the entrepreneur, also mentioning the action star Arnold Schwarzenegger, who was governor of California between 2003 and 2011.
“He also went into politics with no experience and he managed the state very well,” Yankovenko says.
Internet laughs off press secretary’s claims of presidential calm: ‘How often has Trump struck you as ‘measured’
President Donald Trump isn't exactly known for being calm or measured, but that's what his White House is claiming he was during a meeting with Democratic and Republican leaders.
"[email protected] was measured & decisive today. @SpeakerPelosi walking out was baffling but not surprising w NO intention of participating in a mtg on nat’l security. Dem “leadership” chose to storm out & whine to cameras, everyone else stayed to work on behalf of our country," tweeted Stephanie Grisham.
It prompted CNN's Chris Cillizza to inquire when Trump ever struck someone as "measured."
Republicans lack the ‘moxie’ to defend America’s Kurdish allies in Syria: Ex-RNC Chair
Republicans will criticize President Donald Trump on foreign policy, but lack the nerve to do anything meaningful to protect America's Kurdish allies in northern Syria, the former chair of the Republican Party explained on MSNBC on Wednesday.
MSNBC's Chuck Todd interviewed Steele about what it would take for Republicans to serve as a check on the president.
"I think the only way to make him change his mind is -- he’s got to think they might walk," Todd said.
"Well, that would require a level of moxie that we haven’t seen from the leadership," Steele replied.
"On the foreign policy space, I think that’s the one area where we’ve seen people actually start to push back rhetorically," he noted. "But I don’t know if internally they’ve really sat down with the president and go, 'This is how damaging this is, this is how troublesome it is, and this is the problem you’re having inside the caucus.' I just don’t — at least from the folks I’ve talked to, I haven’t gotten the sense they’ve gone there yet."
‘Ignorance at the highest level’: Intel Democrat slams Trump for bizarre letter to Turkish president
On Wednesday's edition of CNN's "The Situation Room," Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL), a member of the House Intelligence Committee, ripped President Donald Trump for his juvenile letter to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdo?an.
"The White House just released the text of the less letter that the president sent to Erdo?an of Turkey, among other things, saying in the aftermath of the earlier decision by the U.S. to pull out troops, saying 'Don't be a tough guy, don't be a fool,'" said anchor Wolf Blitzer. "What is your reaction to that?"
"You know, I'll be honest, I saw this online first. I got a copy of the letter," said Quigley. "I actually thought it was a prank, a joke. It couldn't possibly come from the Oval Office. It sounded all of the world like the president of the United States, in some sort of momentary lapse, just dictated angrily whatever was on the top of his head. These are extraordinarily serious issues. And an extraordinarily dangerous part of the world."