Volodymyr Zelensky, who won the first round of Ukraine’s presidential elections with 30.2% of the votes, has announced that he is willing to publicly debate the incumbent president Petro Poroshenko before they face off in the second round of elections.
“I will go to debates. I’m speaking to Petro Poroshenko, you challenge me to debates, dreaming that I’ll run away and hide. No. I am not you in 2014. I will accept the challenge,” Zelensky said in a video posted on Facebook.
However, the election favorite set a number of conditions for the debates. Just like the one accepting a duel gets to choose the weapon, Zelensky stipulated that the debate should be held at Ukraine’s largest sporting arena, the Olimpiyskiy stadium in Kyiv, which can seat around 70,000 spectators.
“The debates will take place before the people of Ukraine, all channels will have the right to broadcast the debates live, all journalists have the right to attend, and the candidates must pass a medical examination and prove to the people that there are no alcoholics or drug addicts among them, the country needs a healthy president,” Zelensky said.
The final condition set by Zelensky is that Poroshenko must publicly admit that he will be debating “not with a puppet of the Kremlin or of Kolomoyskiy, nor with a ‘vatnik’ (an ethnic Russian), nor with a Maloross (a citizen of “Little Russia”), nor with a plebeian, nor with a clown”. Poroshenko, who said recently that fate has put him in the second round with “a puppet of Kolomoyskiy” must admit that he is being confronted by “the presidential candidate Volodymyr Zelensky”, he insisted.
“I’m giving you 24 hours. Think about it...” he concluded.
Recently Poroshenko called debates before the second round “a key element”. “Anyone who shies away knows he has nothing to say,” he said on 31 March. Zelensky’s circle was initially not interested in a debate with Poroshenko.
“What is there to debate about? About the fact that, for five years, a person was at the highest position in the country and could demonstrate and explain everything with his own dealings? If you have a five year plan, why didn’t you do it then? I just don’t see the point of starting these – excuse the dirty word – dog fights, where people organize a talk show, and not a discussion or an exchange of opinions about the programs,” said Zelensky’s advisor, Ruslan Ryaboshapka.