Eurasia This Week: April 28, 2022

April 28, 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.

Krasnaya Street in Krasnodar, Russia. Krasnodar Oblast is one region of Russia due to hold elections in September, but the elections may be cancelled. Photo credit: Wikimedia/Yuriy75 (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Upcoming Eurasia Elections

Russia Regional Elections (some regions): September 11, 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. However, the Kremlin has indicated that the elections due this year may not take place.

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

Nataliya Vasilyeva, The Telegraph (April 26, 2022): Vladimir Putin to scrap local elections as economic sanctions bite: Kremlin claims it would be ‘unwise’ to spend taxpayer money on political campaigns in light of punitive measures imposed by the West

Caitlin McFall, Fox News (April 26, 2022): Russia looks to block governor elections over fears of low support amid high sanctions

Brian D. Taylor, Foreign Affairs (April 26, 2022): The Power Struggle After Putin: Russia’s Inevitable Succession Crisis

RFE/RL (April 26, 2022): Pussy Riot Member Added To Wanted List After Sentence Changed To Prison Term

Paul LeBlanc, CNN (April 22, 2022): ‘We don’t realize how strong we actually are’: How Alexey Navalny became Russia’s opposition leader

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.

Andrew Fink, The Dispatch (April 26, 2022): How Ukraine’s Neighbors Will Shape Its War Effort

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

International Republican Institute (April 27, 2022): IRI Georgia Poll Shows Economic Concerns, Political Polarization, Fears About Russia (April 26, 2022): ODIHR’s Final Report on October 2021 Local Elections

Past Eurasia Elections

Armenia Indirect Presidential Election: March 3, 2022

Armenia’s parliament elected a new president on March 3, following the resignation of the current president, Armen Sarkissian. Vahagn Khachaturian won the vote, which was boycotted by key opposition factions. In Armenia’s parliamentary system, the president plays a largely ceremonial role.

Armenia held snap parliamentary elections on June 20, 2021 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. Political tensions remain.

JAMnews (April 24, 2022): Freedom House: Elections are free in Armenia, media is not

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

RFE/RL (April 25, 2022): Belarusian Rights Activists Go On Trial Seen As Politically Motivated

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.

Russia has ramped up its harassment Moldova following the victories of Sandu and her allies. Moreover, Russia instigated and continues to perpetuate a frozen conflict in Transnistria, where 1,400 Russian troops are stationed – an obstacle to Moldova’s integration into Euro-Atlantic structures. Additionally, Transnistria’s rampant organized crime and corruption threaten Moldova’s stability. Russia also stokes separatism in Gagauzia, a Turkic-speaking region of Moldova. More

The Economist (April 28, 2022): What is Transnistria and why does it matter to Russia? War in Ukraine is heating up a frozen conflict in Moldova’s breakaway region

Elias Yousif, Stimson Center (April 28, 2022): Is Moldova Next? Crisis Across Ukraine’s Western Border

Rob Picheta, CNN (April 27, 2022): How Transnistria, a Russian-backed region in Moldova, is getting pulled into the war in Ukraine

RFE/RL (April 26, 2022): Moldova’s President Says Transdniester Attacks Are An Attempt To Escalate Tensions

International Republican Institute (April 26, 2022): IRI Moldova Poll Shows Attitudes Toward Russia Increasingly Negative, Economic Concerns, Opportunities for Youth Engagement

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

Nurgul Tapaeva, RFE/RL (April 27, 2022): Kazakh Lawmakers Look To Strip Ex-President Nazarbaev Of Special Status

Reuters (April 26, 2022): Kazakh leader hands over ruling party leadership to ally

RFE/RL (April 25, 2022): Kazakh Activists Jailed Over Unsanctioned Rally Demanding Release Of Political Prisoners

Eurasia Elections Coming Up in 2022 and 2023

Russia Regional Elections (some regions): September 11, 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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