Volodymyr Zelenskiy, a leading Ukrainian actor and comedian, has ended months of speculation by announcing he will run in the country’s upcoming presidential election.
The 40-year-old, who is the creator and director of Quarter 95 studios, said during an appearance on a television show late on December 31 that he had decided to run to “try to change something in Ukraine.”
“Unlike our great politicians, I did not want to make promises in vain. But now, just a few minutes before the New Year, I can promise you I'll do it in the right way,” he said during a Quarter 95 comedy program that was being broadcast on the 1+1 television channel.
The campaign for the March 31 vote kicked off just hours before Zelenskiy made his announcement.
President Petro Poroshenko has not officially announced he will seek a second five-year term but is widely expected to.
Billboards of Poroshenko dot cities across Ukraine, highlighting his position as commander of the country's armed forces and his role in securing Ukraine an Orthodox Church independent of Moscow.
After taking 54 percent of the vote in the 2014 election, Poroshenko's public approval ratings have plummeted, namely amid ongoing economic woes and a lack of progress on reforms and cracking down on corruption.
As of now, Poroshenko's main rival appears to be Yulia Tymoshenko, a former prime minister who announced her candidacy in June.
Recent opinion polls show Tymoshenko ahead of Poroshenko.
One poll by the Seetarget research company, conducted in the first week of December, showed Zelenskiy in second place with 9 percent. Tymoshenko topped the poll with 12.7 percent, while Poroshenko placed third with 8.6 percent.
If he were to win the election, Zelenskiy may find it easy to slip into the role of president.
He currently stars in the popular television comedy series Servant Of The People, where he portrays a regular schoolteacher who becomes president.
The nomination of candidates with the Central Election Commission will last until February 3, and the commission should announce a final list of presidential candidates by February 8.