Zelenskyy’s Declining Popularity Could Open Western Door

War stalemate and a popular general are political trouble.

What’s happening: Recent polling in Ukraine revealed that if an election was held, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy would lose soundly to Valerii Zaluzhnyi — former Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine — though Zaluzhnyi has no presidential ambitions.

Why it matters: Zelenskyy took office without Western support. His declining popularity could open the door to replacing him with a president more in-line with Western interests.

Flashback: Zelenskyy won the 2019 election with the highest percentage of votes ever received by a Ukraine presidential candidate, though his popularity soon dwindled amid concerns about corruption. Russia’s invasion — and his decision to stay in Kyiv — rocketed approval ratings to stratospheric heights, which plummeted again two years into the war.

  • Losing the battle: Russia currently controls 20 percent of Ukraine’s territory. While the war was effectively at a stalemate, in February Russia captured strategic city Avdiivka. Four days later, Zelenskyy fired Zaluzhnyi.

Welcomed by the West? Former TV star Zelenskyy won the presidency on a populist platform, in opposition to incumbent Petro Poroshenko — the West’s preference. Liberal internationalists were skeptical of Zelenskyy; one called him “dangerously pro-Russian.” If Zelenskyy gives way to a more pliable candidate, the West would have more say-so over post-war Ukraine.

What’s next: Elections scheduled for later this month were postponed due to martial law and will likely remain that way until the war is over.