Zelensky and Servant of the People: New Party, Old Problems – An Examination of Volodymyr Zelensky's Ideology and Progress

Zelensky and Servant of the People: New Party, Old Problems – An Examination of Volodymyr Zelensky's Ideology and Progress

Joseph Jack Place
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 28
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-2906-5.ch013
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This work examines the ideological stances of Volodymyr Zelensky and the effectiveness of him and his party so far of breaking with the past politically in Ukraine. It assesses the ideological basis of Servant of the People and Zelensky initially, examining the different and sometimes inconsistent aspects of the party and argues there is an issue in that it appears to be a continuation of personality first politics. It then outlines issues for the new government, both domestically and internationally, and outlines the effects real and potential regarding Ukraine's relationship with the EU and Russia. It finally makes some suggestions on areas to focus on to assist in the growth and stability that Ukraine needs. The author makes the argument that the new government, while implementing some necessary reforms, due to an inexperience, broad, and unsustainable ideological position and oligarchic influence, isn't as adept at modernising as it wants to be and even runs the risk of returning Ukraine to the hands of anti-reformers with some poorly thought out policies.
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I will first outline Zelensky’s and his party Servant of the People’s (or SOTP) ideological support, or lack of. It is important to note that Zelensky’s party got a massive 75% of the vote, however a large percentage (Hosa and Wilson, 2019) didn’t know a single policy of the party. This illustrates that most of the votes for Zelensky were in many regards a vote for change, or against the status quo. People of differing political persuasions could rally behind Zelensky’s party. There was no significant policy proposals, most policies were promises to clean up corruption, stop the war, get people to return to Ukraine (Interfax, 2019) and get Ukraine into EU and NATO(Ukrinform, 2019). There were some policies such as increasing teachers’ wages but generally the manifesto was short and general.

This general and broad approach was a key strength in the campaign. It allowed Servant of the People to be a “big tent” political party. Big Tent parties comprise of multiple ideologies with examples such as the Republican party in the USA comprising of Christian conservatives, libertarians, neoconservatives and political moderates, the Conservative party in the UK having free marketeers, traditionalists and Unionists and En Marche in France which ran on a centrist campaign with a catch all appeal. It generally is out of necessity of a voting system (First past the post systems tend to promote the necessity of big tent parties such as in the UK and USA) or as some act of uniting different groups to achieve something of a common interest. Zelensky fits into the latter as Ukraine has a mixed voting system and he ran on a campaign against the government and some form of change. This big tent approach allowed Servant of the People to appeal to everyone and be whatever anyone wanted.

In many ways, personality is vital to understand in relation to his popularity. His personality and comedy shows were extremely popular in Ukraine over the previous ten or more years. The release of the Servant of the People TV show consolidated this and created an association of Zelensky to politics. At the time of release people spoke enthusiastically of Zelensky as a political figure like in the show. Within the TV show, his character isn’t ideologically strong but vigorously populist, an everyday citizen and addresses problems known to every Ukrainian regarding corruption, inefficiency and global matters.

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