Zelensky, a new example of the charismatic leader?  - Economic policy

Zelensky, a new example of the charismatic leader? – Economic policy

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has a date with history. In no time, he became the face of the underdog, caught up in an unfair fight.

Each battle avoided is a victory. But this pacifist message is no longer getting through to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. When he took office, he opted for negotiations to resolve the conflict in eastern Ukraine. In recent weeks, Mr. Zelensky’s rhetoric has turned into a patriotic discourse that would not look out of place in many war movies. With the people at his side, he wants to defend his country to the last drop of his blood, this underlines his intransigence.

Each battle avoided is a victory. But this pacifist message is no longer getting through to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. When he took office, he opted for negotiations to resolve the conflict in eastern Ukraine. In recent weeks, Mr. Zelensky’s rhetoric has turned into a patriotic discourse that would not look out of place in many war movies. With the people at his side, he wants to defend his country to the last drop of his blood, this underlines his intransigence. This warlike rhetoric is largely explained by the Russian attempt to overthrow the kyiv regime by force of arms. But Putin’s military operation is not going as well or as quickly as Moscow had hoped, which has a knack for skyrocketing tensions between the West and Russia. Former actor Zelensky plays a prominent role in this storyline and does surprisingly well on the big stage of world politics. Zelensky is now a globally recognized “brand”. “He is an example of a charismatic leader,” says brand specialist Fons Van Dyck. “As a super-influencer, who uses both traditional media and social media, he represents a new type of leader. His style is far removed from the model of authoritarian leadership that Russia and China are familiar with.”Connect in an authentic way If Volodymyr Zelensky is a lawyer by training, it is above all as an actor that he made himself known before becoming president. An elected president with no real political program. Zelensky appealed to many Ukrainians precisely because he did not belong to the “corrupt establishment”. He is now held in high esteem by Ukrainians. “It has to do with the dramatic circumstances,” says Ria Laenen, professor of Russian and Eurasian politics at KU Leuven. “Differences of opinion take a back seat under the existential threat of war. Yet I notice that many Ukrainians who did not vote for Zelensky now think he is doing a more than honorable job as as president: he succeeded in temporarily eliminating the political divisions that existed.” According to Ria Laenen, Zelenski knew how to strike the right tone. “He says and does the things Ukrainians need now,” she said. For Jan Callebaut, a specialist in political marketing, this tone is above all based on credibility. “Zelensky communicates authentically,” he says. “He makes sure there is a unity in the perception of his speech. He does not speak from the errors of sub-groups, but responds from an identification with the people. This is what makes his message so strong.”The notion of patriotism in Ukraine is remarkably strong. This is due to the fact that the country has existed, as an independent state, for barely three decades, but probably also to the character of Zelensky. He is the first president won the elections by winning the votes of the whole country. In general, there was a political divide between Russian-speaking Ukrainians and others. Russian-speaking Ukrainians also support Zelensky. The fact that he was raised in Russian, that he has Jewish ancestors and that he symbolizes the new Ukraine is an undeniable asset. “It is a concrete consequence of the Maidan revolution,” says Laenen. “Then many Ukrainians made the choice, whatever their language, for a more European-oriented future.” Zelensky is the embodiment of this, Callebaut believes. “He is the child of past history, but symbolizes the identity of those on their way to something new.” Emotion Zelensky’s communication style also seems to strike a chord internationally. “Zelensky speaks clearly, simply and always speaks with emotion. You won’t easily catch him thinking in terms of strategy or tactics,” Callebaut says. But the so-called higher finality that runs like a common thread in his discourse is also important. According to Van Dyck: “You have to have a purpose to mobilize large groups of people. Zelensky makes it clear to other countries that an attack on a democratic sovereign state is also their problem.” global solidarity with this tactic. The way he does it is like taken from a textbook, says Van Dyck. “If you can associate a clear threat with the image of a specific enemy, it’s easier to galvanize people into action,” he explains. “Furthermore, Zelenski presented a set of very concrete demands from day one. They ranged from sanctions to arms deliveries. And he succeeded. This is an additional incentive for the local population to follow him. The next few days will be crucial for Zelensky, according to Callebaut.”So far Zelensky has had to make few compromises,” says he. “To generate sympathy, he had to present himself clearly as the outsider who is being dominated. Now that the war is dragging on, he must take care of other aspects, such as finding a solution for the inhabitants of the besieged cities. How he responds to this will determine his credibility.”A gamble In any case, Zelensky’s unruly stance is a gamble. Will local resistance and Western support last? Putin is trying to sow fear and spreading doubt with propaganda and bombs. So far, this is having little effect and Zelensky remains the unifying figure of the Ukrainian resistance. But the question of whether he can build on this success remains to be seen. the negotiating table is another challenge. Because just like Putin, Zelensky also plays poker. In the end, his team has a lot of neophytes in politics. Mr. Laenen says: “My big concern was that the Zelensky team could have good intentions, but she was so diplomatically inexperienced that she would be overthrown by Western and Russian politicians. But it seems that this open-mindedness has so far worked rather to their advantage. , we can hear a comparison with Churchill or even with Robin Hood. For Laenen, it is still too early to establish such parallels. “We do not yet know how it will end. Not even for him personally,” she says. “So far, his authenticity is appealing. Zelensky is unimpressed with world leaders who visit him, and he prefers ammunition for his troops to a plane for his family. He shows a certain type of courage that not all Western European leaders would have. This makes him a unifying figure, a sort of Robin Hood, but he is certainly not beyond reproach. Since his appointment, the management of the main corruption problems has given rise to many frustrations. However, many Ukrainians prefer not to complain about his shortcomings as a leader, they prefer to focus on what he does well.”

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