Ukraine President Holds Contest for New ‘Highly Moral’ Lawmaker Candidates

KIEV (Reuters) —
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy delivers a speech during an IT conference in Kiev, Ukraine, Thursday. (Reuters/Valentyn Ogirenko)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s team on Monday invited applications from members of the public to fight a snap election in July for his new Servant of the People Party, betting they can wrench power from a discredited political class.

Candidates, who, like the former comedian, need not have previous political experience, can apply through a website to tout their credentials and proposals for new laws, officials said at the launch of the party’s campaign.

The applicants would then be screened with the help of international companies. Officials from the party, named after the media show that made him famous, might use a lie-detector to test the candidate’s honesty.

Zelenskiy’s party has no lawmakers in Parliament. Winning the snap election would allow him to decide the makeup of a new government and implement reforms that might please his voters and Ukraine’s international donors.

Opinion polls suggest Zelenskiy’s party will win the July election but fall short of a majority.

“Of course our opponents are old-school politicians,” said campaign chief Oleksandr Kornienko. “They are currently trying to create the impression that apart from them there is nobody able to run the country.”

Comedian Zelenskiy won last month’s presidential election by a landslide, promising to fight corruption and a new way of doing politics in one of Europe’s poorest countries.

Monday’s announcement is in keeping with Zelenskiy’s unorthodox campaigning style. In the presidential race he relied heavily on social media posts and comedy gigs while eschewing traditional rallies. He crowdsourced policy ideas on social media.

“First of all, this person should be highly moral, with deep principles and with a desire to understand and carry out the tasks that Ukrainian society will set for them,” party leader Dmytro Razumkov said.

At Monday’s media briefing, party officials declined to say which other party they might seek an alliance with in the event of a hung parliament. They also declined to name their candidate for prime minister.

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