Eurasia This Week: September 1, 2022

September 1, 2022

A weekly review of news and analysis of elections in Eurasia, usually posted on Thursdays and occasionally updated throughout the week.

Kazakhstan’s Ak Orda Presidential Palace. Photo credit: Wikimedia/Nikolay Olkhovoy (CC BY 3.0)

Upcoming Eurasia Elections

Russia Regional Elections (some regions): September 11, 2022

Russia is due to hold regional and gubernatorial elections in some regions in September 2022, including for the Moscow City Duma. 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.

Mark Scott, Politico (August 31, 2022): The shit-posting, Twitter-trolling, dog-deploying social media army taking on Putin one meme at a time

Atlantic Council (August 30, 2022): What legacy does Mikhail Gorbachev, the last Soviet leader, leave behind?

New York Times (August 30, 2022): Putin Issues Brief Condolences as World Reacts to Gorbachev’s Death

David E. Hoffman, Washington Post (August 30, 2022): Mikhail Gorbachev, last leader of the Soviet Union, dies at 91

Tomasz Kamusella, New Eastern Europe (August 26, 2022): The imperial mentality of unapologetic Russian oppositionists

Kazakhstan Snap Presidential Election: Fall 2022 and Snap Parliamentary Elections: Early 2023

Kazakhstan’s president, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, has announced that a snap presidential election will take place this fall, followed by snap parliamentary elections nearly 2023.

These elections come on the heels of a June 2022 constitutional referendum that Tokayev claimed would make Kazakhstan more representative, although in reality, the changes were largely cosmetic. The impetus for the referendum was a series of protests this past January that led to the deaths of some 138 people and a military intervention by the Russia-led CSTO.

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. 

RFE/RL (September 1, 2022): Kazakhstan’s President Toqaev To Seek Second Term In Snap Election

Catherine Putz, The Diplomat (September 1, 2022): Kazakh Leader Calls for Snap Presidential Election: The Kazakh president, whose constitutional referendum this summer aimed to bring about a “New” Kazakhstan, has moved, rhetorically, on to speaking of a “Just” Kazakhstan.

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 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. Most if not all members of the Rada (parliament) have remained in Ukraine, either to continue to carry out their legislative duties or to fight.

Council of Europe (September 1, 2022): Congress President warns of fictitious Russian “referendums” in Ukrainian territories

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.

Moldova’s current president, Maia Sandu, is center-right and pro-Europe. She trounced pro-Kremlin leftist Igor Dodon, who had been the incumbent, in the November 2020 presidential election, after losing narrowly to him in 2016. Sandu’s allies then won a landslide in the July 2021 parliamentary elections. However, pro-Russia politicians hold a number of local offices throughout the country, including mayor of Chisinau, the capital. 

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.

Reuters (August 29, 2022): Moldova’s Ex-President Calls For Snap Elections Over Gas Price: Moldova’s pro-Russian opposition leader called for snap presidential and parliamentary elections on Tuesday and told the pro-Western government to go to Moscow to negotiate cheaper natural gas from Russia as prices soar

Christopher Booth, The Spectator (August 27, 2022): Can Moldova resist Russia’s embrace?

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 current government is led by Georgian Dream, a coalition founded by eccentric and Kremlin-connected oligarch Bidzina Ivanishvili. It came to power during the 2012 parliamentary elections, ousting former president Mikel Saakasvili’s pro-European, pro-NATO United National Movement. 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.

The most recent vote Georgia, the October 2021 local elections, took place in a tense political climate, exacerbated by the arrest of Saakashvili upon his return to the country on the eve of the vote. 

Despite Ivanishvili’s Kremlin ties, Georgian Dream has continued some of Georgia’s steps toward Euro-Atlantic integration, including applying for EU membership.

Eurasianet (August 31, 2022): The four horsemen of Georgia’s anti-Western conspiracy: A group of ruling party MPs claims to have gone rogue to speak the “truth” about the country’s relations with the West.

Eurasia Elections Coming Up in 2022 and 2023

Russia Regional Elections (some regions): September 11, 2022

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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