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The Trumping of Ukraine

The presence of a television comedian-turned-political interloper in Ukraine's presidential race has eerie parallels to Donald Trump's candidacy in the 2016 US election. The main difference is that a country like the United States can probably survive its choice, whereas Ukraine cannot.

NEW YORK – If life imitates art, Nikolai Gogol, who had a keen grasp of the delusional and demented, could have scripted many of the key political events of recent years. Consider a story that begins with a woman announcing her presidential candidacy and quickly becoming – despite her flaws – the favorite to win. But out of nowhere appears another candidate: a television star with no qualifications for public office.

In short order, this buffoonish interloper goes for the jugular, heaping one big lie after another on his opponent, while spouting absurd promises about social policy and security matters. His proposals fall apart under the slightest scrutiny, but it doesn’t seem to matter. More citizens drift into his camp, attracted by his vow to “drain the swamp” and lock up his “crooked” opponent. The world is taken aback as he bamboozles his way to victory.

This black comedy describes the 2016 US presidential election, when Donald Trump came to power in one of the world’s most powerful countries and its oldest democracy. But while America might well recover from electing a louche carnival barker, Gogol’s birthplace, Ukraine, is another matter.

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