Eurasia This Week: May 5, 2022

May 5, 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 T-72 tank at the Askeran Tank Memorial near Stepanakert, Nagorno-Karabakh. Armenians have been protesting the government’s handling of the aftermath of the most recent Nagorno-Karabakh war and calling for the ouster of PM Pashinyan. Photo credit: Wikimedia/KennyOMG (CC0 1.0)

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

RFE/RL (May 4, 2022): Navalny Says Notorious Prison Is Preparing For His Arrival

Edward Lucas, Daily Mail (April 29, 2022): Will Alexei Navalny be Russia’s Mandela?

Zachary B. Wolf, CNN (April 28, 2022): A Russian opposition leader wants to fight Vladimir Putin with ads on YouTube

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.

AP (April 28, 2022): A chilling Russian cyber aim in Ukraine: Digital dossiers: Hacks on Ukrainian government agencies paired with prewar data theft likely armed Russia with extensive details on much of Ukraine’s population, intelligence analysts say

Moldova Local Elections: October 2023 (due)

Moldova is due to hold local elections in October 2023. After that, a presidential election is due in 2024 and parliamentary elections are due in 2025.

The last elections were snap parliamentary elections on July 11, 2021 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

Anda Bologa, CEPA (May 4, 2022): Moldova: Skating on Thin Ice: The tensions in Transnistria enhance concerns that Moldova could be the next country to fall victim to Russian military aggression

Elias Yousif, Stimson Center (April 28, 2022): Is Moldova Next? Crisis Across Ukraine’s Western Border: Amid increasing conflict spillover from neighboring Ukraine, an overview of Moldova’s unique vulnerability to Russia

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.

RFE/RL (May 4, 2022): Protests Continue In Armenia Over Nagorno-Karabakh ‘Concession’ Fears

AP (May 2, 2022): Armenia detains 180 protesters calling on Pashinyan to quit

AFP (May 1, 2022): Thousands rally in Armenia warning against Karabakh concessions: Opposition leader says ‘large-scale campaign of civil disobedience’ will begin this week.

Nurbanu Kizil, Daily Sabah (May 1, 2022): ‘Turkey-Armenia normalization may foster peace but challenges remain’

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

Todd Prince, RFE/RL (May 4, 2022): Stanislau Shushkevich, First Leader Of Independent Belarus, Dead At 87

Amy Mackinnon, Foreign Policy (May 4, 2022): Belarus Is the Other Loser in Putin’s War: Minsk enabled Moscow in its Ukraine war. Now, Belarusians are paying the price.

AFP (April 29, 2022): Belarus opposition seeks US technology help

Giulia Carbonaro, Newsweek (April 28, 2022): Russia, Belarus Call on Former Soviet Nations to Help Form USSR-Style Union

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

Georgi Gotev, Euractiv (May 2, 2022): Kazakhstan president calls for constitutional referendum, warns against ‘provocateurs’

Emily Couch and Sher Kashimov, Foreign Policy (May 2, 2022): How Western Media Framed Kazakhstan’s Protests: A complicated conflict was reduced to an easy narrative of riots and chaos

Regional (May 3, 2022): Czech Senate President pledges support for “fast-track” EU membership for Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine

Shota Kincha, Luiza Mchedlishvili, Ani Avetisyan, and Ismi Aghayev, OC Media (May 3, 2022): Censorship and violence: the challenges to press freedom in the Caucasus in 2022

Mihaela Esanu, Harvard Political Review (April 30, 2022): The Wake-Up Call for Soviet Nostalgics

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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