Volodymyr Zelenskiy, the 41-year-old comedian who played the role of a president in a popular TV series is now front runner to become Ukraine’s real head of state.
Zelenskiy’s campaign team is trying to assure investors he would be able to keep the country’s IMF programme on track.
In the TV series, a fictional Ukrainian president gets so drunk at a dinner with the head of the International Monetary Fund that he throws her into a swimming pool.
He then forced bystanders to drink water from the pool, thinking in his drunken stupor that it is champagne.
Petro Poroshenko, who has led Ukraine for the past five years would face Zelenskiy in an election run-off on April 21, paints his rival as a lightweight.
With no prior political experience, Zelenskiy is an unknown quantity to investors and the stakes are high.
Ukraine’s economy, dragged down by a separatist conflict in the east, is dependent on IMF assistance worth billions of dollars.
Zelenskiy’s team has brought in two former ministers as advisers and has been meeting business leaders, diplomats and IMF officials as he tried to win investors’ confidence.
One of the advisers, former economy minister, Aivaras Abromavicius, told Reuters that Zelenskiy would preserve the central bank’s independence and keep its governor, Yakiv Smoliy, in place if he won the run-off.
He would also lobby a reluctant parliament to lift a moratorium on the sale of farmland and change how businesses are taxed, Abromavicius said.
Asked whether Zelenskiy still had a credibility gap to overcome with investors, Abromavicius said: “It’s all work in progress.”
“Of course, he’s new to politics. He doesn’t answer all the questions the way every voter wants to hear, but with every day we hear more and more concrete statements,” he said.