Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky has proposed extending the state of emergency, which would result in the cancellation of the parliamentary elections scheduled for October. Zelensky initially declared martial law on February 24, 2022, and has since extended it multiple times. The most recent extension, announced on May 20, is set to expire on August 18. However, if Zelensky’s request is approved by the Verkhovna Rada, the emergency would be extended until November 15.
Ukrainian law stipulates that parliamentary elections must be held no later than October 29, with a 60-day campaigning period starting on August 28. However, campaigning and voting are prohibited during martial law. Therefore, another extension of the state of emergency would significantly reduce the campaign season for the upcoming parliamentary elections. Furthermore, it would also impact the campaign season for the presidential elections, which are currently scheduled for March 2024.
Zelensky has previously stated that elections cannot take place during martial law due to constitutional restrictions. In May, he emphasized the need for elections to be conducted in a time of peace, without any ongoing conflict. These statements indicate that Zelensky believes elections should occur when the country is not engaged in any military operations.
The possible cancellation of elections has drawn criticism from some of Ukraine’s supporters in Europe and North America. ‘Tiny’ Kox, the head of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), expressed the view that Ukraine should prepare for elections as soon as possible. Kox argued that democracy relies on more than just elections but noted that elections are an integral part of a functioning democracy.
During his presidential campaign in 2019, Zelensky focused on promoting peace. He won the election with 73% of the vote and his political party, named after the television show in which he portrayed a fictional president of Ukraine, obtained a supermajority in the Verkhovna Rada. However, by late 2020, Zelensky’s stance shifted, and he began openly discussing a military solution for the “occupied territories” in Donbass.
In May 2022, as tensions with Russia increased, Zelensky enacted a law granting him the power to ban political parties accused of being “pro-Russian” without the right to appeal. Since then, he has outlawed several parties, including the formerly largest opposition bloc in parliament. This move has raised concerns about Zelensky’s commitment to democratic principles and has been seen by some as a potential attempt to consolidate power.
Furthermore, earlier this month, the Federal Intelligence Service of Switzerland accused Zelensky of attempting to “politically eliminate” Kiev mayor Vitaly Klitschko ahead of the next presidential election in 2024. According to a leaked classified report, the Swiss agency stated that Zelensky was displaying authoritarian traits, which could potentially lead to Western pressure.
The possible extension of the state of emergency and the cancellation of the parliamentary elections raise questions about Ukraine’s democratic process and Zelensky’s commitment to upholding democratic principles. It also highlights potential concerns regarding the consolidation of power and the suppression of opposition voices. The international community will closely monitor the developments in Ukraine and their implications for the country’s democratic future.