The favorite to win Ukraine's presidential election this weekend caused a stir on Sunday by skipping a live televised debate with incumbent Petro Poroshenko – but even that isn't expect to damage his chances of winning the upcoming final round of voting.
Volodymyr Zelensky, a comedian and actor and the favorite to win a run-off round in the election this coming Sunday, had agreed to face the more seasoned politician and incumbent President Petro Poroshenko in a televised debate from Kiev's Olympic Stadium but the pair had disagreed on a date.
That left Poroshenko to speak on his own for 45 minutes while standing next to an empty lectern for his political opponent. Zelensky had not said that he was going to attend the debate, instead agreeing to attend a televised debate on Friday, April 21.
It's not the first bizarre episode in an election race that has enlivened Ukrainians who appear to have tired of the country's old political guard.
Zelensky accepted Poroshenko's invitation to hold debates with three conditions, one of them being that both candidates take live drug and alcohol tests to, as Zelenksy put it, "show the Ukrainian people that neither is an alcoholic or drug addict."
Experts say Zelenksy's "no-show" has not affected the likelihood that he will become president at a final run-off vote next on April 21.
"I still cannot see Poroshenko winning - he (Zelensky) is just too far ahead," Timothy Ash, senior emerging markets strategist at Bluebay Asset Management, told CNBC on Monday. "Poroshenko's negative ratings are just too high. He lost this election months ago," Ash added.
Unsurprisingly, Poroshenko used his uninterrupted platform on Sunday to criticize an absent Zelensky and his apparent lack of concrete manifesto.
"If he hides from people again, if he is afraid, we will invite him again. We will invite him every day to every live show for the whole country to see who it is going to elect for the next five years," Poroshenko told the audience Sunday, according to news reports.