Eurasia This Week: March 23, 2023

March 23, 2023

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

New Avenue in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan. Photo credit: Wikimedia/Michael Karavanov (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Upcoming Eurasia Elections

Turkmenistan Parliamentary and Local Elections: March 26, 2023

Turkmenistan – a highly repressive state that has never held free or fair elections and lacks a genuine political opposition – held a presidential election on March 12, 2022, nearly two yers early. The reason appears to be to cement dynastic succession, as the son of current president Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, Serdar Berdimuhamedov, ran and won in a landslide.

Merdan Velhanov, Anadolu Agency (March 24, 2023): Voters in Turkmenistan to go to polls in parliamentary elections on Sunday

RFE/RL (March 19, 2023 – podcast): The Year Since Turkmenistan Elected A New President

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.”

Stuart Lau, Politico (March 20, 2023): Xi Jinping to Vladimir Putin: I’m sure you’ll win re-election next year

Meduza (March 17, 2023): Russia’s ‘guardian of traditional values’ How the Kremlin plans to sell Putin to voters in his fifth presidential campaign

Moldova Local Elections: October 2023 (due)

Moldova is due to hold local elections in October 2023. After that, a presidential election is due in 2024 and parliamentary elections are due in 2025.

The last elections were snap parliamentary elections on July 11, 2021 which pro-Europe center-right president Maia Sandu had been trying to call for months because in Moldova’s parliamentary system, a legislative majority is necessary to execute on any policy agenda. Prior  to these elections, party had a clear majority in parliament (and Sandu’s allies were outnumbered by pro-Russian parties), leading to political instability. Sandu’s allies ended up winning in a landslide.

Sandu herself trounced pro-Kremlin leftist Igor Dodon, who had been the incumbent, in the November 2020 presidential election, after losing narrowly to him in 2016.

Russia has ramped up its harassment Moldova following the victories of Sandu and her allies. Moreover, Russia instigated and continues to perpetuate a frozen conflict in Transnistria, where 1,400 Russian troops are stationed – an obstacle to Moldova’s integration into Euro-Atlantic structures. Additionally, Transnistria’s rampant organized crime and corruption threaten Moldova’s stability. Russia also stokes separatism in Gagauzia, a Turkic-speaking region of Moldova.

On February 10, the pro-West government collapsed, following a warning from Ukraine’s president that Russia had a plan to destroy Moldova. However, Sandu quickly appointed a new government. The country remains on high alert for violence or other destabilization efforts by pro-Russian forces.

Vladimir Socor, Jamestown Foundation (March 23, 2023): Moldovan Government Finally Burns Bridges to Russia (Part One)

Tim Lister, CNN (March 18, 2023): Secret document reveals Russia’s 10-year plan to destabilize Moldova

Dumitru Minzarari, European Council on Foreign Relations (March 17, 2023): Population-centric: Lessons from Russia’s hybrid war in Moldova

Past 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.

Ariel Cohen, Forbes (March 23, 2023): Kazakhstan’s Parliamentary Elections Affect Energy Flows From Eurasia

Catherine Putz, The Diplomat (March 21, 2023): Low Turnout and a Victory for Kazakhstan’s Ruling Party in Parliamentary Polls

Chris Rickleton, RFE/RL (March 20, 2023): Hints Of Change? Five Takeaways From Kazakhstan’s Parliamentary Elections

OSCE (March 20, 2023): Kazakhstan’s parliamentary elections offered voters increased choice, although limitations on fundamental freedoms and participation remain, international observers say

Eurasia Elections Coming Up in 2023

Turkmenistan Parliamentary and Local Elections: March 26, 2023

Uzbekistan Constitutional Referendum: April 30, 2023

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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