June 2, 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.
The Zelyony Bazaar in Almaty, Kazakhstan. Kazakhstan just held a constitutional referendum, but critics call it light on real reform. Photo credit: Flickr/Dan Lundberg (CC BY-SA 2.0)
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
AP (May 31, 2022): Russia’s Alexei Navalny faces extra 15 years in jail over ‘extremism’ claims
Jacob Knutson, Axios (May 31, 2022): Putin critic Navalny says he faces new criminal charge
Haaretz (May 29, 2022): The New Navalny Documentary Will Make You Feel Better About the World
Laura Kelly, The Hill (May 28, 2022): Navalny in prison: How a thorn in Putin’s side reaches the outside world
Moscow Times (May 27, 2022): Local Deputy in Russia’s Far East Urges Putin to End War in Ukraine
AFP (May 27, 2022): Controversial Russia lawmaker to lead ultra-nationalist party
Nadav Gavrielov, New York Times (May 26, 2022): The Dangerous Challenge of Making a Film About Aleksei Navalny
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.
Sara Alsherif, Global Voices (May 27, 2022): In Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, cyberwarfare is a decisive element of the battlefield
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. The opposition has been calling for new elections since October 2020’s parliamentary polls, due to claims of fraud. International observers noted significant flaws in the elections, and observed that there were issues with public confidence in the polls.
Georgian Dream, a coalition founded by eccentric and Kremlin-connected oligarch Bidzina Ivanishvili, came to power during the 2012 parliamentary elections, ousting Saakasvili’s pro-European, pro-NATO United National Movement. Despite Ivanishvili’s Kremlin ties, Georgian Dream has continued some of Georgia’s steps toward Euro-Atlantic integration, including applying for EU membership.
Zhanna Tarkhanova, JAMnews (June 1, 2022): Why does Moscow play down S.Ossetia’s attempts to join Russia?
Milord Shengelia and Makhare Atchaidze, OC Media (June 1, 2022): Georgians are split on election quality
Civil.ge (May 3, 2022): Georgia Could Be Better Prepared for Membership Bid, EU Ambo Says
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
Borja Lasheras, CEPA (May 27, 2022): Moldova: Time to Banish Europe’s Gray Zones
AFP (May 26, 2022): Pro-Russian ex-president of Moldova placed under house arrest
Kazakhstan Constitutional Referendum: June 5, 2022
Kazakhstan held a constitutional referendum on June 5, 2022 in response to a series of protests in January 2022 that rocked the country and left as many as 225 people dead, as well as a reported 12,000 people in detention.
Voters chose overwhelmingly to adopt a package of 33 reforms to the constitution (about one-third of the current constitution). President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev (who called the protesters “terrorists”), claims that the reforms will transform Kazakhstsan from a super-presidential system to a “presidential system with a strong parliament.”
Central Asia expert Colleen Wood writes: “The proposed reforms are important steps toward real representative government in Kazakhstan; however, they do not necessarily constitute forward movement. Many of the amendments are simply reinstating mechanisms of checks on presidential power that previously existed, rather than materially changing the relationship between state and society, as Tokayev claims.”
Kazakhstan is an authoritarian state. 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. More
Mariya Gordeyeva, Reuters (June 2, 2022): Kazakhstan referendum may bolster Tokayev’s second-term ambitions
Artyem Sochnev, Eurasianet (June 2, 2022): Kazakhstan: All politics is local
Almaz Kumenov, Eurasianet (June 1, 2022): Kazakhstan: Weak information campaign leaves voters in the dark ahead of constitutional referendum
Sophia Nina Burna-Asefi, The Diplomat (May 27, 2022): The Russia-Ukraine Conflict: Implications for Kazakhstan’s Energy Sector
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
Joanna Kakissis and Dawid Krawczyk, NPR (May 31, 2022 – audio): These Belarusians join the fight against Russia, defying their Moscow-backed regime
Armenia Snap Elections: June 20, 2021
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 between acting prime minister Nikol Pashinyan and former president Robert Kocharyan; however, Pashinyan ended up winning by a significant margin. Political tensions remain.
Pashinyan, a former MP and journalist, was originally elected prime minister in December 2018 in snap elections. The snap elections followed a series of protests that led to the resignation of Serzh Sargsyan, Armenia’s former president who became prime minister in an attempt to remain in power when faced with term limits. This became known as Armenia’s “Velvet Revolution.” The Economist named Armenia country of the year for 2018.
Some had hoped that these steps toward greater democracy would convince Armenia to move away from its historical alignment with Russia and toward the west, but that has not largely happened, for a variety of reasons.
Thomas de Waal, Foreign Afairs (May 30, 2022): Nagorno-Karabakh in the Shadow of Ukraine: What Russia’s War Means for Armenia and Azerbaijan
Catherine Putz, The Diplomat (June 9, 2022): Geopolitics and China’s Engagement in Central Asia
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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