A Ukrainian comedy actor who played the country's president in a hit TV show is being taken seriously as a contender in Ukraine's presidential election in March.
Actor, screenwriter, comedian and director Volodymyr Zelensky is an anti-establishment candidate who has been riding high in opinion polls ahead of the vote on March 31 and is a possible winner, experts say.
The latest poll by BDM conducted at the start of February shows Zelensky with 17 percent of the vote, trailing opposition leader (and ex-prime minister) Yulia Tymoshenko who polls with 21.3 percent of the vote. Both candidates are ahead of the third horse in the race, incumbent President Petro Poroshenko, who is seen with 10.8 percent of the vote, the poll of over 4,000 people showed.
In all there are 44 presidential candidates but only a handful are seen with any chance of making it through the first round of voting.
Zelensky, 41, has tapped into popular discontent in Ukraine and is already a well-known figure in Ukraine, having played the part of the president in hit TV sitcom, "Servant of the People," a series that was later picked up by Netflix.
In the show, Zelensky plays a history teacher whose anti-government rant goes viral, leading him to win an election and become president (while trying to avoid the trappings of a president's life). The series enjoyed huge popularity for its lampooning of government and politicians. Like his character in the series, Zelensky has said he would focus on tackling corruption in Ukraine if he took office. He is not without controversy, however, because of his own business links to Ukrainian oligarch Igor Kolomoyskyi – something his opponents have been quick to seize upon.