Eurasia This Week: September 23, 2021

September 23, 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.

Russia held elections September 17-19. Despite above-average repression and rigging, Vladimir Putin’s United Russia has to contend with declining popularity. Photo credit: Wikimedia/Kremlin (CC BY 4.0)

Upcoming Eurasia Elections

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. Georgian Dream has re-iterated that it will not hold snap elections in 2022 even if it loses the local elections. 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

JAMnews (September 23, 2021): Media Development Fund: in 2020, number of anti-Western messages in Georgian media doubled (September 23, 2021): ISFED Releases Second Interim Report on Pre-Election Environment

Giorgi Menabde, Jamestown Foundation (September 21, 2021): Mikheil Saakashvili Vows Return to Georgia (September 17, 2021): Georgia’s 2021 Locals – Why They Matter (September 17, 2021): Ruling party criticizes interim election reports of local observing organisations

Giorgi Lomsadze, Eurasianet (September 16, 2021): Georgia’s ex-prime minister emerges as challenge to ruling party: Once the star of Georgian Dream, which has ruled the country for a decade, Giorgi Gakharia is now taking on his former allies and taking flak as a result.

Kyrgyzstan Parliamentary Elections Take 2: November 28, 2021

Kyrgyzstan will hold parliamentary elections on November 28, 2021 – a re-run of 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

Soso Dzamukashvili, Emerging Europe (September 21, 2021): After third revolution, Kyrgyzstan drifts further away from democracy

Chris Rickleton, Eurasianet (September 20, 2021): Kyrgyzstan: A weakened parliament back up for grabs: The incumbent president will see more risks than opportunities in the next vote.

Past Eurasia Elections

Russia Parliamentary Elections: September 17-19, 2021

Russia held parliamentary elections September 17-19, 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 launched a brutal crackdown on the proposition, including imprisoning Navalny. Candidates who have worked with Navalny or supported him were banned from the election. Only one genuine opposition party – the liberal Yabloko – was able to field candidates. 

Moreover, international technology companies such as Google and Apple assisted the regime by removing apps associated with Navalny’s Smart Vote. More

Kadri Liik, European Council on Foreign Relations (September 23, 2021): Russia, elections, and the West: Ten years later

Vladimir Socor, Jamestown Foundation (September 23, 2021): Weak Response to Russian Duma Elections in Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia

Pavel K. Baev, Jamestown Foundation (September 20, 2021): Fake Elections and Russia’s Belligerent Foreign Policy

Oleksiy Goncharenko, Atlantic Council (September 20, 2021): Why we must not recognize Russia’s fraudulent election

Anton Troianovski and Ivan Nechepurenko, New York Times (September 19, 2021): Russian Election Shows Declining Support for Putin’s Party

Olivia Solon, NBC News (September 18, 2021): Big Tech grapples with Russian internet crackdown during election: Big Tech companies’ human rights policies have been stress-tested in the run-up to Russian parliamentary elections, as the Kremlin cracks down on a broad range of content.

Precious Chatterje-Doody and Ilya Yablokov, The Conversation (September 17, 2021): Russia’s state broadcaster RT going all-out to boost legitimacy of rigged Duma election

Holly Ellyatt, CNBC (September 17, 2021): Russia’s authoritarianism and political crackdown could get worse after weekend vote, experts say

Moldova Gagauzia Regional Elections: September 19, 2021, following Snap Parliamentary Elections: July 11, 2021

Moldova’s ethnic Turkish region of Gagauzia held elections on September 19, 2021. The region tends to be pro-Russia. Moldova in general is at the front lines of the geopolitical competition between Russia and democratic Europe.

Before that, 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

Piotr Garciu, Institute for War and Peace Reporting (September 18, 2021): Moldova: Gagauzia Elections “Part of Corrupt System”: Analysts say that politicians pander to highly localised interests amid little transparency.

RFE/RL (September 22, 2021): At UN, Moldovan President Reiterates Call For Russian Troop Withdrawal

Turkmenistan Parliamentary Elections: March 28, 2021

Turkmenistan held parliamentary elections on March 28, 2021. Turkmenistan is a highly repressive state that has never held free or fair elections, and lacks a genuine political oppositionMore

Bruce Pannier, RFE/RL (September 18, 2021): The Son Rises In Turkmenistan

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 and political defiance continue. More

Stuart Williams, AFP (September 17, 2021): ‘No way out’ for Lukashenko: Belarus opposition chief

John Ruehl, The National Interest (September 17, 2021): Belarus Is Drifting Back to Russia

Sergey Satanovskiy, Roman Goncharenko, and Arina Polsik, DW (September 16, 2021): Will Russia swallow up Belarus?

Anastasia Mgaloblishvili, Institute for War and Peace Reporting (September 16, 2021): Fears Over Georgia-Belarus Security Agreement: “The agreement is very dangerous for peaceful, non-violent citizens who are escaping torture.”

Eurasia Elections Coming Up in 2021 and 2022

Georgia Local Elections: October 2, 2021

Kyrgyzstan Parliamentary Elections Take 2: November 28, 2021

Uzbekistan Presidential Election: October 24, 2021

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