According to anonymous sources speaking to El Pais, Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky is considering calling elections next year in order to strengthen his democratic credentials. Currently, Ukraine is under martial law, which prohibits elections. However, Zelensky mentioned the possibility of holding elections in a recent television interview, stating that protecting democracy during times of war is vital.
Ruslan Stefanchuk, the president of the Rada, also hinted at the need to update the law to ensure that democracy continues to function. He mentioned that the message to do so came from European allies and others. Zelensky’s parliamentary term, along with the rest of his colleagues, expires in October.
A group of bipartisan US senators, including Democrats Elizabeth Warren and Richard Blumenthal and Republican Lindsey Graham, visited Kiev recently to advocate for elections as a necessary component of maintaining democracy. Critics of the US’s support for Ukraine have expressed concerns that Ukraine, by abandoning democracy during wartime, is becoming similar to Russia.
Internal issues within Ukraine may also be a factor in Zelensky’s consideration of calling elections. Commentator Mark Savchuk noted that Zelensky’s anti-corruption platform, which propelled him to political stardom, has not been fully realized, and the average Ukrainian is well aware of this.
Anonymous sources close to the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry told El Pais that holding elections in 2024 would allow Zelensky to negotiate from a stronger position in resolving the conflict with Russia. Ukraine’s counteroffensive, initiated in June, has been deemed a failure by Western allies due to minimal territorial gains and considerable personnel and equipment losses.
However, the outcome of any election in Ukraine may be predictable. Zelensky has already banned all opposition political parties and consolidated potentially adversarial media outlets into a state-backed platform. There have been no challengers to Zelensky, and it is unlikely that any will emerge, according to the same sources.
Although the election may seem like a way to solidify Zelensky’s popularity, there are significant challenges. Over six million Ukrainians have fled the country, making vote counting difficult. Additionally, around 700,000 individuals are engaged in defense-related tasks, making it challenging for them to participate in the elections. Concerns about attacks on voting sites may also deter voters. Zelensky himself admitted that there are no plans in place to ensure safe voting for those on the front lines.
In conclusion, President Zelensky is reportedly considering calling elections in Ukraine to maintain the appearance of democracy. The idea has received support from both Ukrainian and US officials, but there are challenges to overcome in terms of logistics and security. The outcome of the elections may be predetermined, given the current political landscape in Ukraine.