Ukraine inaugurates comedian Zelensky as president

(FILES) In this file photo taken on April 21, 2019 Ukrainian comedian and then presidential candidate Volodymyr Zelensky walks out of a voting booth at a polling station during the second round of Ukraine's presidential election in Kiev. - Ukraine's parliament voted on May 16, 2019 to hold the inauguration of the newly elected president, comedian Volodymyr Zelensky, on May 20, 2019, after he wrangled with lawmakers over the date. (Photo by GENYA SAVILOV / AFP)

Comedian Volodymyr Zelensky steps into his new role as Ukrainian president with his inauguration on Monday, launching a new era for the country wracked by war and economic difficulties.

A month after scoring a landslide victory against incumbent Petro Poroshenko in polls, the 41-year-old becomes Ukraine’s youngest post-Soviet president.

He will swear an oath in a ceremony starting at 0700 GMT. According to tradition, he will place his hand on a copy of the constitution and possibly also a Bible.

He will then give an address to the nation that will be closely watched for clues on his future course.

So far little is known about his precise policies after a campaign that capitalised on public disillusionment with the political establishment and promised to “break the system”.

Uniquely for a first-time president, Zelensky has played the scene before — for laughs. He starred as a history teacher who was unexpectedly elected president in the comedy series “Servant of the People”.

Just a few months ago, the idea that Zelensky would be inaugurated for real seemed equally unlikely.

When the actor and comedian announced his candidacy on December 31, few took it seriously, but after an unprecedented campaign largely waged through social media, he won more than 73 percent in the second round on April 21, trouncing Poroshenko.

Poroshenko led Ukraine for five years, overseeing the fallout over Russia’s annexation of Crimea and armed conflict with Moscow-backed separatists in the country’s East that has caused some 13,000 deaths.

Poroshenko averted complete collapse and launched a series of key reforms but was widely criticised for failing to improve Ukrainians’ living standards or effectively fight all-pervasive corruption.