Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s political party has unexpectedly changed its leader.

During a convention held on Nov. 10, Parliament Speaker Dmytro Razumkov stepped down as leader of the Servant of the People party, which holds a majority in the Verkhovna Rada.

Right after the party voted in support of Razumkov’s resignation, its members unanimously elected lawmaker Oleksandr Kornienko, who chaired Servant of the People’s campaign office during the parliamentary election, as its new head. After the vote, the present lawmakers and party members supported the decision with a round of resounding applause.

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During Razumkov’s welcoming speech at the convention, he stressed that the political party “has demonstrated results that had never before occurred in Ukraine and the European Union.”

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“We are a big team that has come a long way,” Razumkov said before his resignation was announced. Yet, he stressed, to win the upcoming local elections that will take place in 2020, Servant of the People needs to create a broad structure that will foster the development of local branches of the party across Ukraine. “This is a task for the new management of the party.”

Razumkov said he hopes Servant of the People will perform as well in the local elections as it did in the parliamentary elections, where it won a landslide unique in modern Ukrainian political history. It currently holds 254 out of 424 seats in parliament, which means it can pass laws even if other parties do not support them.

Speaking before the party elected him, Kornienko outlined what he sees as Servant of the People’s priority tasks: to complete a reboot of the government and a reform to decentralize governance.

“Ukraine will become a country of communities, a new class of local leaders, whom people will trust,” Kornienko said, adding that the party must ensure that old, corrupt politicians do not remain in power.

“The challenges are bigger now. We are talking about the fate of Ukraine,” Kornienko said.

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Oleksandr Kornienko, the new head of President Volodymyr Zelensky’s Servant of the People party, gives a speech at the party convention on Nov. 10, 2019. (Oleg Petrasiuk)

The new party head also explained how he understands the party ideology. On economic issues, Servant of the People leans toward liberalism. On issues related to the war in Donbas, the party will have a diplomatic approach, supporting Zelensky’s push for peace.

However, Kornienko said the party’s ideology will be refined in the future as new people join it from the country’s regions and work on its political program.

“We will come to a compromise that most of our party supports to avoid questions of who we are (ideology-wise),” he said.

For now, Kornienko added, the party is maintaining the political positions suggested by Zelensky when he ran for office and when his party took part in the parliamentary election.

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