Eurasia This Week: February 17, 2022

February 17, 2022

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.

Ashgabat, capital of Turkmenistan, which has called a snap presidential election for March 12 so that the current president’s son can succeed him. Photo credit: Wikimedia/Michael Karavanov (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Upcoming Europe Elections

Belarus Constitutional Referendum: February 27, 2022

Belarus’s dictator, Alexander Lukashenko, has called a constitutional referendum for February 27, 2022 as a way of extending his time in power (he has been president since 1994 – the first and only president of post-Soviet Belarus). The proposed changes would allow Lukashenko to remain in office until 2035. Belarus’s elections and political processes are neither free nor fair.

The country las held a presidential election on August 9, 2020. In a vote widely deemed not free and not fair, 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. 

In addition, Russia has been moving troops to Belarus in preparation for a possible invasion of Ukraine or other neighboring countries. More

RFE/RL (February 16, 2022): Belarusian Activist Gets Two Years In Prison As Crackdown On Dissent Continues

Igor Ilyash, openDemocracy (February 14, 2022): Reform in name only: Lukashenka’s constitutional referendum is a sham

Jonathan D. Katz and Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, German Marshall Fund (February 10, 2022): Three Questions with Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, Leader of Democratic Belarus

Turkmenistan Snap Presidential Election: March 12, 2022

Turkmenistan has called an early presidential election for March 12, 20222 – the election was originally due in February 2024. The country 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 opposition

The reason for the election appears to be to cement dynastic succession. Current president Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov appears to be stepping down, and his son, Serdar Berdimuhamedov, has announced that he is running. More

RFE/RL (February 16, 2022): Former Political Prisoner Says He Wants To Run In Turkmenistan’s Presidential Election

Catherine Putz, The Diplomat (February 15, 2022): Turkmenistan Set for Dynastic Succession: Early Election March 12, President’s Son Running

Vladimir Afanaslev, Upstream (February 14, 2022): Turkmenistan President resigns to make way for ‘younger generation’: Major regional gas exporter to hold elections in March in move seen as plan to bring president’s son to the top post

Aleksandar Brezar, Euronews (February 12, 2022): Turkmenistan to hold snap elections after Berdymukhamedov broaches succession

Ukraine Parliamentary Elections: By October 2023 and Presidential Election: By March 2024

Ukraine is due to hold parliamentary elections in 2023 and a presidential election in 2024. In the last presidential vote, in 2019, Actor and comedian Zelensky beat incumbent Petro Poroshenko running on an anti-establishment platform. However, since then, the country’s traditional pro-Europe and pro-Moscow political forces have regained ground.

Russia’s military aggression, which began in 2014, continues, and the threat of further invasion looms large.

Maria Popova and Oxana Shevel, Foreign Affairs (February 17, 2022): Putin Cannot Erase Ukraine

Yuras Karmanau, AP (February 14, 2022): Ukraine president’s ratings fall as crisis with Russia brews: Volodymyr Zelenskyy was a political novice running to become Ukraine’s president when he vowed to reach out to Russia-backed rebels in the east who were fighting Ukrainian forces and make strides toward resolving the conflict

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 opposition, 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

Gwendolyn Sasse, Carnegie Europe (February 17, 2022): Reading the Political Signs From Moscow

Tajikistan Presidential Election: October 11, 2020

Tajikistan – an authoritarian state with no free or fair elections, no genuine, credible opposition operating inside the country, and almost no independent media – held its most recent presidential election in October 2020. The People’s Democratic Party of President Emomali Rahmon (who has been in power since 1994) won most of the seats in the Assembly of Representatives in the 2015 elections, which were surrounded by the arrest and torture of opposition figures and a smear campaign of the opposition by state-controlled media. The opposition Islamic Renaissance Party (IRPT) – the only actual opposition party to be  represented in parliament – lost both its seats, and was banned shortly after the elections.

Emomali’s 31-year-old son Rustam Emomali has been installed as mayor of the capital, Dushanbe, as well as speaker of the upper house of parliament, and is possibly being positioned to run for the presidency next year. During the 2013 elections, the opposition united behind the secular candidate Oinihol Bobonazarova, but she withdrew from the race after being unable to collect the required signatures, probably due to the fact that her campaign volunteers were being arrested while they collected signatures.

Kamila Ibragimova, Eurasianet (February 17, 2022): Tajikistan: President’s son adopts growing role on center stage

Eurasia Elections Coming Up in 2022 and 2023

Belarus Constitutional Referendum: February 27, 2022

Turkmenistan Snap Presidential Election: March 12, 2022

Armenia Presidential Election (indirect): March 2022 (proposed)

Russia Regional Elections (some regions): September 2022 (due)

Turkmenistan Parliamentary and Local Elections: March 2023 (due)

Moldova Local Elections: October 2023 (due)

Ukraine Parliamentary Elections: By October 29, 2023 (due)

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