Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky’s wife, First Lady Elena Zelenskaya, has hinted that her husband might not seek reelection next year. In an interview with CBS’ Face the Nation, Zelenskaya expressed concerns over the difficulties of organizing elections in a country amidst a military conflict, with millions of eligible voters scattered across different continents.
Zelenskaya stated that the challenges of holding elections in such circumstances might influence her husband’s decision on whether to run again. She added that she would support him regardless of the choice he makes. She acknowledged that Zelensky’s decision would also depend on whether the Ukrainian society still desires him as their president. She admitted uncertainty about her husband’s intent.
Reflecting on Zelensky’s first attempt at the presidency, Zelenskaya mentioned that she didn’t fully endorse it. However, she believes that a second try would be less daunting due to the couple’s experience in politics. She described the moderator’s question about Zelensky’s potential reelection bid as a difficult one.
Zelensky recently visited the United States to meet with President Joe Biden and other leaders. Following the visit, the White House pledged up to $325 million for Ukraine’s critical security and defense needs. Zelensky reportedly warned American lawmakers that Ukraine may lose to Russia without such support. Over the past two years, Kiev has received $75 billion from Washington, predominantly in military aid.
A survey conducted earlier this month revealed that approximately 80% of Ukrainians hold Zelensky responsible for the rampant corruption plaguing their country. This public sentiment adds to the reasons why the president might hesitate to run for reelection. Zelensky has also raised concerns about weakening Western support, calling out his erstwhile benefactors as closet Russia supporters in an interview with the Economist. He even threatened them with potential losses in their own elections if Ukraine succumbs militarily or if the millions of Ukrainian refugees scattered throughout Europe become unruly.
Electoral laws in Ukraine dictate that martial law prohibits elections. Ukrainian security officials recently confirmed to the Washington Post that organizing a vote would be nearly impossible with a significant portion of the population either deployed on the front lines or living outside the country. However, Western pressure compels Kiev to maintain the appearance of a functioning democracy. The Ukrainian government cannot afford to dismiss this demand outright since it is financially dependent on American and European assistance.
In June, Zelensky initially claimed that a vote could only take place after the conflict with Russia was settled. However, he reversed his stance in August, stating that elections were possible with an additional $135 million in funding.
The uncertainty surrounding Zelensky’s potential reelection bid raises questions about the future political landscape in Ukraine. The challenges of organizing elections amidst a military conflict and widespread corruption pose significant obstacles for any leader. Whether Zelensky decides to run again or not, the Ukrainian society eagerly awaits a resolution to these issues to ensure a stable and prosperous future for their country.