Five years ago, Volodymyr Zelenskyy won Ukraine’s presidential election by a landslide.

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Volodymyr Zelenskyy enjoys considerable domestic backing© Valentyn Ogirenko/REUTERS

His term officially ends in May but an election is unlikely while the country remains at war with Russia.

Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s five-year term as Ukraine’s president formally ends on May 20. An election would have been held in late March, but the parliament postponed the vote as the country is still at war and under martial law. A major questions for Ukrainians is who might succeed Zelenskyy once he leaves office.

In early 2024, few politicians and commentators openly pondered who could or should follow Zelenskyy. At the end of February, when Zelenskyy looked back on the past two years of fighting off Russia, the president dismissed any talk questioning his legitimacy as a “hostile narrative.” Speaking to journalists, Zelenskyy said neither the country’s allies nor anyone in Ukraine were asking such questions. He said any such speculation was “part of the Russian Federation’s program.”

Volodymyr Zelenskyy visits soldiers near the front line© Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/REUTERS

Ukrainian legal experts DW consulted said they expected that Zelenskyy would remain in power until a new president is elected. “The Ukrainian constitution states this clearly,” Andriy Mahera, of the Centre of Policy and Legal Reform, told DW. “The president does not automatically lose his powers five years after inauguration: These powers are only removed when the newly elected president takes office, i.e., after elections.”


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