Eurasia

June 16, 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 old citadel of Shymkent, Kazakhstan. Photo credit: Wikimedia/TheGreatSteppe (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

Lexi Lonas, The Hill (June 14, 2022): Navalny transferred to unknown location, spokesperson says

Meduza (June 13, 2022): ‘In Moscow, we’re the majority’ Opposition politician Ilya Yashin is still in Russia and still speaking out. So far, he’s stayed out of prison

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.

Joshua D. Zimmerman, Washington Post (June 13, 2022): Ukrainians have fought for independence for more than a century: The stubborn reality thwarting Vladimir Putin’s fictions

Giulia Carbonaro, Newsweek (June 13, 2022): Putin’s Former PM Warns: If Ukraine Falls, Baltics Are Next

Stephen Wertheim, The Atlantic (June 11, 2022): The One Key Word Biden Needs to Invoke on Ukraine: He should call it a fight not for democracy but for sovereignty

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.

Civil.ge (June 16, 2022): President Urged to Veto Controversial Surveillance Law

JAMnews (June 14, 2022): Poll: Pro-government media amplify anti-Western narrative in Georgia

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

Catherine Putz, The Diplomat (June 14, 2022): Is There Room in ‘New Kazakhstan’ For New Political Parties? The troubles of Zhanbolat Mamai make it clear that Kazakh authorities have little interest in genuine political competition

Human Rights Watch (June 13, 2022): Kazakhstan: Opposition Politician Could Face 10-Year Sentence

Kyrgyzstan Parliamentary Elections Take 2: November 28, 2021

Kyrgyzstan held parliamentary elections on November 28, 2021 – a re-run of the parliamentary elections that took place in October 2020. Those elections and allegations of fraud led to political turmoil, followed by a snap presidential election in January 2021 and a constitutional referendum (alongside local elections) in April 2021. The new constitution, which passed, grants the president vastly expanded powers. Its critics have dubbed it the “Khanstitution.” The political climate was tense heading into the October 2020 parliamentary elections. It subsequently exploded following said elections. More

RFE/RL (June 16, 2022): Court In Bishkek Acquits Jailed Former Kyrgyz President Atambaev In Two Cases

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

David Brennan, Newsweek (June 13, 2022): Putin’s Ally Lukashenko Faces ‘Last Fight’ in Belarus: Opposition Leader

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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