Eurasia This Week: March 31, 2022

March 31, 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.

A billboard in Dnipro, Ukraine, declaring “Russian warship, go F yourself!” Photo credit: Wikimedia/Alex Blokha (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Upcoming Eurasia Elections

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

Russia is due to hold regional and gubernatorial elections in some regions in September 2022 (because Russia staggers its regional elections, each year has some scheduled. 

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 is waging 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 in last year’s Duma elections. Navalny himself is in prison and recently received an additional nine years on top of his prior two and a half year sentence. More

Billy Perrigo, Time (March 30, 2022): ‘Surprisingly, I’m Quite Optimistic.’ Navalny’s Chief of Staff on What War In Ukraine Means For Russia

Marc Perelman, France24 (March 29, 2022): Top Navalny aide: ‘Putin shortened his time in power when he went to war in Ukraine’

Liudmila Zhustareva, Global Voices (March 25, 2022): Russian opposition leader Navalny calls for continued resistance after receiving 9-year sentence

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 Volodymyr Zelenskyy 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. Since the invasion, Ukrainians have rallied around Zelenskyy, but the United Kingdom and others have warned that Russia seeks to topple his government and install a pro-Moscow puppet regime.

Russia’s military aggression, which began in 2014, continues. Russia began a full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022. While Russia had perhaps expected that Ukraine’s government would collapse quickly, it has held. Moreover, most of Ukraine’s political factions have rallied behind Zelenskyy, with former rivals Yulia Tymoshenko and Petro Poroshenko (recently released from prison) posing for photos with him. Parliament (Verkhovna Rada) has met in its chamber, with members singing the national anthem. Most if not all members of the Rada have remained in Ukraine, either to continue to carry out their legislative duties or to fight with the military.

Torey McMurdo, Washington Post (March 28, 2022): Ukraine has been winning the messaging wars. It’s been preparing for years.

RFE/RL (March 27, 2022): Leader Of Kremlin-Backed Separatists In Ukraine Planning ‘Referendum’ To Join Russia

RFE/RL (March 27, 2022): Mayor Of Town Where Chernobyl Workers Live Says Three Died In Protests Against Russian Occupation

Georgia Parliamentary Elections: October 2024 (due – snap elections possible)

Georgia is due to hold parliamentary elections in October 2024, but snap elections could happen. The October 2021 local elections took place in a tense political climate, exacerbated by the arrest of former president Mikheil Saakashvili upon his return to the country on the eve of the vote. Runoffs took place on October 30, including for the important role of mayor of Tbilisi, which the ruling Georgian Dream party failed to win in the first round. Ultimately, Georgian Dream did win the second round amid criticism from the opposition. 

Following Russia’s 2008 invasion of Georgia, Russia has occupied two breakaway territories, Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Both territories have declared independence, but the vast majority of the world considers them to be part of Georgia. On March 30, South Ossetia’s de facto president announced that he will take steps to make South Ossetia part of Russia. More

Joshua Kucera, Eurasianet (March 31, 2022): South Ossetia says it will seek to join Russia: It’s not the first time the breakaway Georgian territory’s de facto authorities have signaled the intention. In the past Russia has blown the calls off, but its calculations may be different now.

Victoria Craw, iNews (March 31, 2022): Georgia breakaway region of Abkhazia has no plans to follow South Ossetia in joining Russia, leaders say

Past Eurasia Elections

Turkmenistan Snap Presidential Election: March 12, 2022

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.

Catherine Putz, The Diplomat (April 1, 2022): Victoria Clement on Turkmenistan’s Presidential Transition

RFE/RL (March 31, 2022): Turkmen Authorities Make Moves To Ensure Berdymukhammedov Cult Continues

Belarus Constitutional Referendum: February 27, 2022

Belarus’s dictator, Alexander Lukashenko, held a constitutional referendum on 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 changes allow Lukashenko to remain in office until 2035 and scrap Belarus’s non-nuclear status. 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 staged troops in Belarus ahead of its invasion of Ukraine. More

Sarah A. Topol, New York Times (March 30, 2022): The Battle for the Mural — and the Future of Belarus

RFE/RL (March 29, 2022): Belarusian Priest Fined For ‘Ukraine, Forgive Us’ Sticker On His Car

RFE/RL (March 24, 2022): Former Leader Of Belarusian Opposition Group Detained For 2020 Election Protests

Kazakhstan Legislative Elections: January 10, 2021

Kazakhstan held legislative elections for 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.

A series of protests in January 2022 rocked the country and left as many as 225 people dead, as well as a reported 12,000 people in detention. Russia briefly sent personnel under the auspices of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), its military alliance of several post-Soviet states. More

Naubet Bisenov, Nikkei Asia (March 30, 2022): Kazakhstan reforms meet skepticism in shadow of Russia’s war: Amid ‘cosmetic’ changes, critics say Tokayev missing chance to break Kremlin’s grip

RFE/RL (March 24, 2022): Kazakh Activist Sentenced For Supporting Banned Opposition Groups

Eurasia Elections Coming Up in 2022 and 2023

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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