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6 Nov, 2023 23:02

No elections now – Zelensky

Ukraine’s leader has said a vote can’t be held while martial law is in effect
No elections now – Zelensky

The time is not right for elections in Ukraine, President Vladimir Zelensky said on Monday. His comments come after months of pressure by the West to hold a parliamentary vote in the country.

The elections, which were supposed to be held this month, have been postponed indefinitely on account of martial law, which was instituted in February 2022. Ukrainian laws forbid voting or campaigning during the state of emergency.

“We must decide that now is the time of defense, the time of battle, on which the fate of the state and people depends,” Zelensky said in his daily address. “I believe that now is not the time for elections,” but for Ukraine to stay united, he added.

Ukraine’s foreign minister, Dmitry Kuleba, said last week that Zelensky was “weighing” whether to hold a presidential election in 2024. Kuleba noted that such a vote would be difficult to organize, with millions of Ukrainians out of the country due to the conflict with Russia, and hundreds of thousands fighting on the front lines.

Zelensky has been under mounting pressure from the West for months to hold elections. A number of EU politicians as well as US senators have made such arguments to Kiev.

He outright rejected the idea in May, pointing to martial law. By August, however, some of Zelensky’s aides were suggesting an election might be possible, with the speaker of the Ukrainian parliament proposing that the laws could be amended because “democracy cannot stop.”

For the longest time, it was unclear if anyone would even challenge Zelensky. Ukraine has banned a dozen political parties as “pro-Russian” under a law enacted in May 2022, including the largest opposition bloc. A US-funded poll published last month showed Zelensky with an 80% approval rating, although his disapproval had more than doubled since April. 

Last week, however, Zelensky’s former aide Alexey Arestovich announced he would challenge his old boss for the presidency whenever the next election is called. The presidential spin doctor was responsible for much of the propaganda emanating from Kiev in 2022, but resigned in January after “mistakenly” admitting that civilians had been killed by an errant Ukrainian air defense missile rather than a Russian airstrike.

Ukraine's current parliament is dominated by Zelensky's political party, which came to power in July 2019 after having been registered only the previous year. After his inauguration in May 2019, Ukraine's president dissolved the country's legislature and called for immediate parliamentary elections, which had been planned for October 2019.

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