Eurasia This Week: June 9, 2022

June 9, 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 steppes of Kazakhstan. Photo credit: Wikimedia/Togzhan Ibrayeva (CC BY-SA 4.0)

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

Reuters (June 9, 2022): Russia’s Navalny scolds Google and Meta for helping Putin

RFE/RL (June 8, 2022): Moscow Court Replaces Navalny Associate Sobol’s Parole-Like Sentence With Prison Term

Julia Davis, Daily Beast (June 8, 2022): Team Putin Dishes on the Moment They Could Win It All

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.

Igor Burdyga, openDemocracy (June 9, 2022): Surviving 100 days of Russian occupation in Kherson

Ecaterina Locoman, Foreign Policy Research Institute (June 7, 2022): What’s Next for Ukraine’s (and its Neighbors’) Domestic and Foreign Policy?

Madalin Necsutu, Balkan Insight (June 6, 2022): Ukrainian MP Detained in Moldova on Belarus Warrant

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.

Thomas de Waal, Carnegie Endowment (June 9, 2022): Georgia, Europe’s Problem Child (June 7, 2022): Ivanishvili or Europe, Two MEPs Forewarn Georgians

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

Paula Erizanu, Financial Times (June 9, 2022): Helping Moldova is in Europe’s interest: Brussels should grant the country EU candidate status to counter Russian attempts to exploit economic hardship

Radu Magdin, Emerging Europe (June 3, 2022): Moldova needs EU candidate status and effective support for its membership perspective

Past Eurasia Elections

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

Maximilian Hess, Foreign Policy Research Institute (June 8, 2022): How Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine has Affected Kazakh Politics

Meduza (June 7, 2022): ‘A twisted form of democracy’

Vladimir Afanasiev, Upstream (June 7, 2022): Kazakh referendum aims to quell discontent as oil sector starts to shed workers

Reuters (June 6, 2022): Kazakh leader pledges reform after referendum win

Almaz Kumenov, Eurasianet (June 6, 2022): Kazakhstan voters OK constitutional changes, but meaning illusory to many: The referendum has bolstered the standing of President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev

Catherine Putz, The Diplomat (June 6, 2022): Kazakhstan Leaves ‘Elbasy’ Behind, Approves Constitutional Referendum: With 77 percent voting to approve constitutional changes that nix the “leader of the nation,” Nazarbayev’s star has truly faded in Kazakhstan

RFE/RL (June 5, 2022): Kazakh Exit Polls Indicate More Than 70 Percent Voted For Constitutional Overhaul

RFE/RL (June 5, 2022 – video): Kazakh Opposition Protests Amid Constitutional Referendum

Paul Bartlett, Nikkei Asia (June 4, 2022): Kazakhstan set to vote on constitution reform in Putin-like process

Farangis Najibullah, RFE/RL (June 3, 2022): Is Real Change Coming? Kazakhs Skeptical About Vote To Remove ‘Nazarbaev’ Benefits From Constitution

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

Markos Kounalakis, Washington Monthly (June 9, 2022): The U.S. Should Recognize Belarus’s Government in Exile

Reports Without Borders (June 9, 2022): RSF unveils portraits of journalists detained in Belarus

Emily Clark and Agnieszka Suszko, ABC News Australia (June 4, 2022): The underground network of Belarusians sabotaging Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine and plotting a revolution at home

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)

21votes does not necessarily agree with all of the opinions expressed in the linked articles; rather, our goal is to curate a wide range of voices. Furthermore, none of the individuals or organizations referenced have reviewed 21votes’ content. That is to say, their inclusion should not be taken to imply that they endorse us in any way. More on our approach here.

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