May 27, 2019 / 1:56 PM / a month ago

Ukraine president holds contest for new 'highly moral' lawmaker candidates

KIEV (Reuters) - 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.

Dmytro Razumkov (C), Oleksandr Korniyenko (L) and Mykhailo Fedorov, leaders of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy's political party Servant of the People, attend a news conference in Kiev, Ukraine May 27, 2019. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko

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 television 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 make-up 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 Facebook.

“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.

In the TV show, Zelenskiy played a history teacher who accidentally becomes president after a video of him ranting about corruption goes viral.

His presidential campaign made frequent allusions to Zelenskiy’s on-screen character, who is scrupulously honest and outwits corrupt lawmakers and oligarchs.

His Servant of the People party is named after the show and its logo is a man holding the presidential mace while riding a bicycle. Zelenskiy’s character rides a bicycle in the opening credits of the series.

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.

Writing by Matthias Williams; Editing by Alison Williams

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