Eurasia This Week: February 2, 2023

February 2, 2023

A weekly review of news and analysis of elections in Eurasia, usually posted on Thursdays and occasionally updated throughout the week.

Kvatakhevi Monastery in Georgia’s Shida Kartli region. Georgia’s pro-West opposition held a leadership election that risks leaving the party divided ahead of elections due next year. Photo credit: Wikimedia/Paata Vardanashvili (CC BY 2.0)

Upcoming Eurasia Elections

Kazakhstan Snap Parliamentary Elections: March 19, 2023

In January 2022, a series of violent protests broke out in Kazakhstan, and in the aftermath, something of a political realignment took place with the sidelining of former president Nursultan Nazerbayev, who had previously exercised a great deal of influence behind the scenes. 

The country held a constitutional referendum in June 2022 that President Kassym-Jomart claimed would make Kazakhstan more representative, although in reality, the changes were largely cosmetic. A series of snap elections (for president, senate, and now parliament) similarly probably will not produce real reform. 

Kazakhstan is a major oil producer and has historically been one of Russia’s closest allies, but has snubbed Moscow on several occasions since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Almaz Kumenov, Eurasianet (February 2, 2023): New parties, old rules in Kazakhstan’s parliament-to-be

Russia, Gubernatorial and Local Elections in Some Regions (including Moscow mayor): September 10, 2023, followed by presidential election due in September 2024

Russia is not a democracy and elections are neither free nor fair. That said, public opinion is not entirely irrelevant to the political calculus, and Vladimir Putin technically faces voters in 2024. As a result, his regime has become increasingly oppressive at home and aggressive abroad.

IFEX notes: “In 2022, Russia saw more than 21,000 arrests and at least 370 defendants in criminal cases for anti-war speech; more than 200,000 internet resources blocked; and 11 sentences in cases of state treason.” 

New York Times (February 2, 2023): Putin Promises Victory in Ukraine as His Forces Strike a Key City

Reuters (February 1, 2023): Jailed Kremlin critic Navalny says he’s in harsher solitary cell for six months

RFE/RL (February 1, 2023): U.S. Official Asserts Sanctions Cutting Off Russian War Machine

Stephen Neukam, The Hill (January 31, 2023): Former Putin aide: Coup a ‘real possibility’

Leonid Ragozin, Al Jazeera (January 30, 2023): How Putin made himself Maidan-proof by waging war on Ukraine: Since its start, the conflict in Ukraine has been tightly linked to Putin’s fear of an opposition-led challenge to his rule.

Bloomberg (January 30, 2023): Putin plans new Ukraine push despite losses as he prepares for years of war

IFEX (January 30, 2023): Russia in 2022: “Repression on an unprecedented scale”

Ukraine Parliamentary Elections: By October 29, 2023 and Presidential Election: March 2024 (due)

The term of Ukraine’s current parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, ends on October 29, 2023 and President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s term ends in March 2024.  Due to Russia’s invasion and the ongoing war, some have proposed delaying the elections, and the Election Commission has effectively suspended its work, delaying several by-elections.

Zelenskyy’s Servant of the People party currently holds a large majority in the Rada.

RFE/RL (February 2, 2023): Ukraine Raids Home Of Kolomoyskiy, Former Minister, In Fraud Case

Susie Blann, AP (February 2, 2023): Russia hits civilian targets anew, EU officials visit Kyiv

RFE/RL (February 2, 2023): Netanyahu Open To Providing Military Aid To Ukraine, Including ‘Iron Dome’ Missile Defense System

Suzanne Lynch, Politico (January 30, 2023): Ukraine wants to join EU within two years, PM says. Brussels says: ‘Not so fast.’

The Economist (January 29, 2023): A campaign to “de-Russify” Ukraine is under way

Georgia Parliamentary Elections: October 2024 (due – snap elections possible)

The United National Movement (UNM), Georgia’s pro-West opposition, held a leadership election in January following a bitter campaign that has left it divided heading into parliamentary elections due in 2024 (Georgia transitioned to a parliamentary system starting in 2012, so these elections will determine who runs the government). 

The current government is led by Georgian Dream, a coalition founded by eccentric and Kremlin-connected oligarch Bidzina Ivanishvili. It came to power during the 2012 parliamentary elections, ousting former president Mikheil Saakashvili’s UNM. The opposition has been calling for new elections since October 2020’s parliamentary polls, due to claims of fraud. International observers noted significant flaws in the elections, and observed that there were issues with public confidence in the polls.

The most recent vote Georgia, the October 2021 local elections, took place in a tense political climate, exacerbated by the arrest of Saakashvili upon his return to the country on the eve of the vote. 

Despite Ivanishvili’s Kremlin ties, Georgian Dream has continued some of Georgia’s steps toward Euro-Atlantic integration, including applying for EU membership. This is because public opinion in Georgia overwhelmingly supports those things. However, it is unclear whether Georgian Dream has a genuine commitment to a Euro-Atlantic course, given its leaders’ ties to Russia. And some say that Saakashvili’s ongoing rough treatment and imprisonment are occurring on Russia’s orders.

JAMnews (February 2, 2023): “Saakashvili is dying in prison, and this will affect the future of Georgia” – Debate in the European Parliament

Tara Law, Time (February 2, 2023): Zelensky Says Georgia’s Former President is Being ‘Slowly Killed.’ Here’s What to Know

The New Voice of Ukraine (February 2, 2023): Foreign Ministry calls on Georgia “to stop abusing” Saakashvili and send him to Ukraine

The Economist (January 31, 2023): Georgia is drifting into the Kremlin’s orbit

Nini Gabritchidze, Eurasianet (January 31, 2023): Party elections highlight persistent crisis in Georgia’s opposition: A leadership election in Georgia’s biggest opposition party has shown that informal rule may be a more widespread problem in the country than previously thought.

Shota Kincha, OC Media (January 30, 2023): UNM elects new leader following criticism for failing to free Saakashvili

Eurasia Elections Coming Up in 2023

Kazakhstan Snap Parliamentary Elections: March 19, 2023

Turkmenistan Parliamentary and Local Elections: March 2023 (due)

Russia, Gubernatorial and Local Elections in Some Regions (including Moscow mayor): September 10, 2023

Armenia, Local Elections in Yerevan: September 2023 (due)

Ukraine Parliamentary Elections: October 29, 2023 (due)

Moldova Local Elections: October 2023 (due)

Belarus Local Elections: Due in 2023 (delays possible)

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