Parliamentary Elections Will Not Be Held in Ukraine Due to the Martial Law. And When Will They Be? And What Will the De-occupied Territories Look Like?
Parliamentary elections in Ukraine should be on October 29, 2023. However, according to the provisions of Ukrainian legislation, it is prohibited to hold parliamentary or presidential elections during martial law. Zaborona spoke with representatives of the Servant of the People party and political experts about the conditions under which elections to the Verkhovna Rada will be held in Ukraine and what role the de-occupied territories will play in this (and whether elections will be held there at all in the first years after liberation).
When will the parliamentary elections be held in Ukraine?
In July 2019, extraordinary parliamentary elections were at the decision of the newly elected President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyi. The next elections to the Verkhovna Rada should be held on the last Sunday of October of the fifth year of the powers of the current convocation of the parliament. However, due to the full-scale invasion of the Russian Federation into Ukraine and the occupation of part of the Ukrainian territories, the question arose whether parliamentary elections will be held this year.
Zaborona’s interlocutors claim that officials are discussing various scenarios for holding parliamentary elections in Ukraine — particularly in conditions of martial law or in certain territories after its abolition. Given that the Law of Ukraine, “On the Legal Regime of Martial Law,” prohibits holding any elections during this period, the parliament can hypothetically vote and make amendments to change the law.
However, to Zaborona’s request, the press service of the Servant of the People party replied that as long as the war continues in the country, the effect of martial law will not be canceled, so the parliamentary elections will not take place because “all resources must be directed to the victory of Ukraine.”
Thus, it is likely that the date of the elections will be postponed to the period after the end of the war, notes Alina Zagoruyko, a deputy from the “Servant of the People” party and the head of the Verkhovna Rada subcommittee on elections, referenda and other forms of direct democracy. Accordingly, the powers of the current convocation of the parliament, following Article 83 of Section IV of the Constitution, will be extended until the day of the first meeting of the first session of the Verkhovna Rada elected after the abolition of martial law.
What difficulties will Ukraine face during the elections after the de-occupation of the territories and the end of the war?
Even with the cessation of hostilities and the lifting of martial law in Ukraine, there will be a global problem of wholly or partially destroyed settlements. Also, millions of Ukrainians became displaced, moved to other regions, or went abroad.
Given these problems, how can elections be held in a post-war country? The deputy from the “Servant of the People” party and head of the Verkhovna Rada subcommittee on elections, Alina Zahoruyko, tells Zaborona that a working group of deputies is already working on the drafting of the law on defining territories where elections will not be held for a certain period.
Who will determine these territories, according to what criteria, and in what time frame — parliamentarians are still discussing all this. However, there is already some progress, Zahoruyko assures, in particular, the security factor in the de-occupied territories will be taken into account. After all, any elections are held only under the condition of guaranteeing the safety of voters.
“We are talking about the fact that it is necessary to establish clear criteria in the law, according to which elections are not held. And our draft [bill] contains precisely these criteria, which are still being discussed. It is both a security component and the state of the infrastructure. The criterion will be considered, how much area is mined and the situation with demining the territory. We are talking about this so that people can exercise their right to vote in a safe environment,” emphasizes Zahoruyko. “We are also talking about the criteria related to the electoral infrastructure and whether the functioning of the law enforcement and judicial systems has been restored, whether there are independent mass media, and whether the banking system is working. All these factors affect the election process.”
Parliamentarians are currently discussing which state body will be able to determine the impossibility of holding elections in specific territories.
“It could be the National Security and Defense Council — a collegial body composed of relevant ministers, the Security Service of Ukraine, and the Prosecutor General of Ukraine. Who but these people should have the most information about the security situation? But the NSDC is objectively an advisory body under the president. Its decisions may be subject to a certain political influence,” explains Alina Zagoruyko in a conversation with Zaborona. “If we consider the Central Election Commission, then this body does not have mechanisms for determining security factors in the country. There is an idea that the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine can become such a body.”
Zagoruyko emphasizes that the period during which elections will not be held in individual territories has yet to be finally determined. According to her, another draft law may determine this period because the situation in the de-occupied and currently occupied territories is very different.
“Today, we have Crimea and the territories of Donetsk and Luhansk regions. It is very difficult to talk about these territories [in the context of elections]. But we clearly understand that elections cannot be held in these territories in the coming years.”
Political scientist Maksym Dzhigun believes that such a mechanism for regulating the election process after the end of martial law is necessary.
“According to the logic of the legislators, there should be a transition period so that people [in the de-occupied territories] can recover mentally and morally,” says Dzhigun. “Secondly, the entire infrastructure must be rebuilt in the de-occupied territories because a huge number of residents have left. A significant number of people were forcibly taken to Russia.”
A factor that can complicate the conduct of elections is the registration of citizens and the register of voters. Due to the mass movement of Ukrainians within the country and abroad, it will be very problematic to renew and update the data in the voter register, the parliamentarians note. After all, a significant percentage of citizens do not register at their new residence and therefore do not receive the status of an internally displaced person. It also applies to Ukrainians who left for other countries and did not register at Ukrainian embassies and consulates.
“Three working groups have already been created based on the Central Election Commission (CEC). One of them deals with issues of restoring the functioning of the State Register of Voters,” the deputy Alina Zagoruyko tells Zaborona. “By approximately August of this year, there should be certain developments and a vision of how to solve the problem.”
Have the political preferences of Ukrainians changed since the beginning of the war?
According to Maksym Dzhigun, if the elections to the Verkhovna Rada were to be held in the fall of 2023, the support of the pro-government party would be extremely high among Ukrainian voters. It is confirmed by the latest sociological studies of the Razumkov Center, according to which more than 85% of respondents expressed their support and trust in the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyi.
“If you look at the electoral map of moods and preferences, then in Ukraine, there is total trust and support of the pro-ruling party and the president,” says Maksym Dzhigun in an interview with Zaborona. “Voters’ support was decreased from almost all parties in the parliament. And it would actually be beneficial for the authorities to hold elections now because the percentage of support is now at a higher level than it was before the elections in 2019.”
Support for volunteer movements and the military has also grown among the Ukrainian population. However, given the experience of the 2014 parliamentary elections, some political parties will want to use the military for the sake of ratings, Dzhigun believes.
“It was, for example, in 2014. At that time, many deputies joined the parties based on pro-military rhetoric. The parties were included in the lists of military personnel solely because they are military personnel with a name.