April 6, 2023
A weekly review of news and analysis of elections in Eurasia, usually posted on Thursdays and occasionally updated throughout the week.
A metro station in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. Photo credit: Wikimedia/Peretz Partensky (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Upcoming Eurasia Elections
Uzbekistan Constitutional Referendum: April 30, 2023
Uzbekistan is holding a referendum on April 30 to change the constitution to allow President Shavkat Mirziyoev to remain in office until 2040.
Elections in Uzbekistan are neither free nor fair, and political opposition is not able to operate in the country. Longtime dictator Islam Karimov, who oversaw the world’s worst massacre of protesters since Tiananmen and tortured dissidents (even boiling some of them to death), died in 2016. His successor, Shavkat Mirziyoyev, has showed some openness to reform, such as a move to end forced labor during the cotton harvest (although forced labor is reportedly still going on) and the release of some – not all – political prisoners, but the country remains a consolidated autocracy. As a result, the “no” campaign in the referendum is basically nonexistent.
AFP (April 2, 2023): Uzbekistan tries to garner backing for controversial vote
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.
Nadia Beard, Financial Times (April 6, 2023): How Georgians came together to fight a Russian-inspired law: Three nights of protests in Tbilisi showed a divided opposition unified against Putin
CEPA (April 6, 2023): Reform and Resistance: Georgia’s Path to EU Candidacy
Belarus Presidential Election: August 2025 (due)
Margaryta Khvostova, Dmytro Kryvosheiev and Pavel Slunkin, European Council on Foreign Relations (April 6, 2023): The Zelensky-Lukashenka-Tsikhanouskaya triangle: Understanding Ukraine’s relationship with the Belarusian opposition
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.
Nurbek Bekmurzaev, Global Voices (April 3, 2023): Hopes for democracy in Kazakhstan fade further as numerous violations mar parliamentary elections
War in Ukraine
James Jay Carafano, GIS (April 5, 2023): Would a Republican U.S. president support Ukraine?
Catherine Putz, The Diplomat (March 29, 2023): Taliban’s Diplomatic Presence Growing in Central Asia
Eurasia Elections Coming Up in 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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