Ukrainian officials are facing pressure from their Western allies to hold parliamentary and presidential elections, despite the current martial law prohibiting such processes, according to a report by the Washington Post. Prominent politicians, including Tiny Kox, head of the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly, and Democratic US Senators Richard Blumenthal and Elizabeth Warren, have called for elections in Ukraine. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham also expressed support, stating that holding a ballot in Ukraine would not only be an act of defiance against the Russian invasion but also an embrace of democracy and freedom.
However, Ukrainian officials and experts interviewed by the Post argue that holding elections in a country embroiled in a major conflict is virtually impossible and ill-advised. This is due to the Russian military presence in regions claimed by Ukraine, as well as the significant number of displaced people and deployed soldiers. Officials in Kiev believe that organizing a major vote would require overcoming significant financial, logistical, and legal hurdles. They also express concerns that Russia could exploit the elections to sow division and weaken Ukraine from within.
An anonymous Ukrainian security official stated that Russia is pushing for elections through secret channels but emphasized that there is no situation in which a democratic election could be held during the ongoing war. The Ukrainian government is wary of the potential risks involved in conducting elections while the conflict with Russia continues.
However, Kiev cannot simply reject these demands from its Western backers, as doing so could alienate crucial sources of financial and military support. The Biden administration is reportedly sympathetic to the challenges faced by Ukraine and is not actively pushing for elections.
Martial law, which was initially imposed shortly after the start of Russia’s military campaign in February 2022 and has been repeatedly extended since then, prohibits the holding of presidential and parliamentary elections in Ukraine. President Vladimir Zelensky has stated that elections can only take place after the end of hostilities. However, in August, he suggested that an election could be possible if the parliament quickly changed national legislation and the West provided an additional $135 million in funding. This statement was criticized by US Republican presidential hopeful Vivek Ramaswamy as a “ballot-box shakedown.”
The situation in Ukraine remains complex, with the ongoing conflict presenting significant obstacles to the organization of elections. While calls for elections from Western politicians are being resisted by Ukrainian officials, the delicate balance between diplomatic considerations and the imperatives of the conflict continues to shape the country’s decision-making process.