Eurasia This Week: August 5, 2021

August 5, 2021

A weekly review of news and analysis of elections in Eurasia, usually posted on Thursdays and occasionally updated throughout the week. For a full electoral calendar and interactive map, click here.

City hall in Batumi, on Georgia’s Black Sea coast. Georgia holds local elections this fall that have taken on a greater importance than usual. Photo credit: Wikimedia/Viggen (CC BY 3.0)

Upcoming Eurasia Elections

Russia Parliamentary Elections: By September 19, 2021

Russia is due to hold parliamentary elections by September 19, 2021. Russian elections are neither free nor fair. Nonetheless, the opposition has been making some gains in recent regional elections, helped by opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s “Smart Vote,” a campaign of tactical voting, in which they developed a list of candidates the best chance of beating Vladimir Putin’s United Russia. Consequently, the Kremlin has launched a brutal crackdown on the proposition, including imprisoning Navalny. Candidates who have worked with Navalny or supported him have been banned from the upcoming election. Only one genuine opposition party – the liberal Yabloko – currently is able to field candidates. More

Anton Zverev, Reuters (August 5, 2021): Russian opposition activist to run for parliament from jail

AFP (August 4, 2021): OSCE Says Will Not Monitor Russian Duma Elections

AP (August 4, 2021): Russia blocks access to 2 news sites critical of the Kremlin

Al Jazeera (August 3, 2021): Russia restricts movement of key Navalny ally for 18 months: Lyubov Sobol handed a travel ban, curfew order over involvement in pro-Navalny protests earlier this year

RFE/RL (August 1, 2021): In Time-Tested Spoiler Tactic, Russian Opposition Candidates Face Rivals With The Same Names

Natia Seskuria, Chatham House (August 1, 2021): Putin’s problem children: Russia’s leader faces a backlash from the generation that has lost out under his rule

Georgia Local Elections: October 2, 2021

Georgia has scheduled local elections for October 2, 2021, and they are particularly important because – as a result of a deal to resolve the political crisis following last year’s parliamentary elections – they could spark new parliamentary elections if the ruling Georgian Dream party wins less than 43 percent of the proportional vote. However, the ruling Georgian Dream scrapped the agreement in July, raising concerns about Georgia’s political stability. The political climate is tense, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and related economic fallout.

Most recently, an uptick in violence against the LGBT community and journalists, perpetrated by far-right and pro-Kremlin forces, has fueled the wider debate about where Georgia is going, both culturally and geopolitically. More

Giorgi Menabde, Jamestown Foundation (August 4, 2021): [European Council President] Charles Michel Tries to Keep Georgia From Leaving the European Orbit

JAMnews (August 3, 2021): Georgian Dream and opposition UNM top IRI opinion polls in Georgia

Stratfor (August 2, 2021): An Annulled Political Deal Plunges Georgia Back Into Uncertainty

OC Media (July 30, 2021): The Georgian Dream Party withdraws from EU-brokered deal with opposition

RFE/RL (July 30, 2021): U.S., EU Concerned Over Stability After Georgia’s Ruling Party Annuls Political Deal

Kyrgyzstan Parliamentary Elections Take 2: Fall 2021 (expected)

Kyrgyzstan’s leader has proposed re-running the parliamentary elections that took place in October 2020. Those elections and allegations of fraud led to political turmoil, followed by a snap presidential election in January 2021 and a constitutional referendum (alongside local elections) in April 2021. The new constitution, which passed, grants the president vastly expanded powers. Its critics have dubbed it the “Khanstitution.” The political climate was tense heading into the October 2020 parliamentary elections. It subsequently exploded following said elections. More

Aizat Shailoobek kyzy, Global Voices (August 5, 2021): Is anti-Chinese sentiment in Kyrgyzstan strong enough to freeze a key Belt and Road Initiative project?

Ilgiz Kambarov, The Diplomat (August 4, 2021): Upcoming Parliament Elections Present New Opportunities and Challenges for Kyrgyzstan

Human Rights Watch (August 3, 2021): Kyrgyzstan: “False Information” Law Threatens Free Speech

Muhammad Tahir and Bruce Pannier, RFE/RL (August 1, 2021 – podcast): Kyrgyzstan Backtracks On Human Rights And Freedom Of The Press

Past Eurasia Elections

Kazakhstan Rural Elections: July 25, 2021

Kazakhstan held rural elections (“Akim elections”) on July 25. For the first time, hundreds of villages elected mayors directly. These follow legislative elections that took place January 10, 2021. The country’s elections take place in the context of an authoritarian system in which critics of the government face harassment and arrest. As such, no genuine opposition has representation in the legislature. More

Colleen Wood, The Diplomat (August 2, 2021): Akim Elections: More Cosmetic Reform in Kazakhstan?

Moldova Snap Parliamentary Elections: July 11, 2021

Moldova held snap parliamentary elections on July 11, 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. More

Hannah Brown with AFP, Euronews (August 5, 2021): These picture perfect lavender fields in Moldova are part of a comeback story

Riley Green, Foreign Brief (August 5, 2021): Parliament of the Republic of Moldova to approve Prime Minister-elect Natalia Gavrilita

Madalin Necsutu, Balkan Insight (July 30, 2021): Sandu Appoints Pro-Western Ally Gavrilita as Moldova’s PM-Designate

Armenia Snap Parliamentary Elections: June 20, 2021

Armenia held snap parliamentary elections on June 20 in an effort to defuse a political crisis following a defeat in the recent Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Pre-election polls suggested a close contest Pashinyan acting prime minister Nikol Pashinyan and former president Robert Kocharyan; however, Pashinyan ended up winning by a significant margin.

Pashinyan became prime minister following the 2018 pro-democracy “Velvet Revolution.” However, he mostly maintained Armenia’s pro-Russia geopolitical stance, and that does not look likely to change in the near future.

JAMnews (August 3, 2021): Armenian opposition boycotts first session of the newly elected parliament

AP (August 2, 2021): Pashinyan officially appointed Armenia’s prime minister

Belarus Presidential Election: August 9, 2020

Belarus held a presidential election on August 9, 2020. In a vote widely deemed not free and not fair, incumbent Alexander Lukashenko declared victory. However, the opposition declared that Svetlana Tikhanovskaya had in fact won. Hundreds of thousands of Belarusians have taken to the streets in protest to demand free and fair elections, even in the face of assault and arrest by security forces. Protests continue. More

Latika Bourke, Sydney Morning Herald (August 4, 2021): No safe place: hanging, defection and hijacking prompt outcry against Belarus

Reuters (August 4, 2021): Maria Kolesnikova, face of Belarus street protests, goes on trial

BBC (August 4, 2021): Svetlana Tikhanovskaya: Belarus opposition leader hopeful after Boris Johnson meeting

Grigory Ioffe, Jamestown Foundation (August 3, 2021): The Diplomatic Triumph of Svetlana Tikhanovskaya and the Fate of the Belarusian Opposition

Paulina Smolinski, CBS News (July 31, 2021): Belarusian opposition leader brings her country’s fight for democracy to the U.S.

Eurasia Elections Coming Up in 2021 and 2022

Russia Parliamentary Elections: By September 19, 2021

Georgia Local Elections: October 2, 2021

Kyrgyzstan Parliamentary Elections Take 2: Fall 2021 (expected)

Uzbekistan Presidential Election: October 24, 2021

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