Will Ukraine hold an election in the middle of a war?
How do you hold elections in the middle of a war? As if he doesn't have enough on his plate, that’s the latest question plaguing Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky amid renewed attention on Ukraine’s presidential vote, which is set to take place in March 2024.
Asked on Monday whether he backs holding the vote, Zelensky said he didbut on the condition that the US and EU provide sufficient support to help them pull it off. Zelensky also pointed out that state law bans the holding of elections during wartime, meaning that parliament would have to tweak the country’s electoral code.
This decision would need to be made pretty damn fast, and it could indeed deepen divisions in the US and prove to be a logistical nightmare.
Zelensky says that any resources needed to ensure voter access – including for 7 million refugees displaced by the war as well as thousands of troops on the frontlines – should come from international partners. He argues that Ukraine doesn’t have the funds or the infrastructure to oversee such a mammoth operation and that he wouldn’t back diverting state funds away from the grueling war effort.
But this comes at a time when US support for ongoing aid to Ukraine is already waning and just as Americans will be focused on their own extremely messy presidential election. Convincing the US electorate that Kyiv needs more funds to conduct an election – on top of what’s already been pledged – will be a tall order.
What’s more, a vote held during wartime – which raises concerns about access, fairness, and security – also gives fodder to regimes that want to delegitimize the Ukrainian state and its government.
For Zelensky, this is a pivotal moment. Clad solely in olive green military fatigues over the past 18 months, he’s been trying to convince Western partners of two key things: that Ukraine can win the war and that he’s serious about rooting out corruption from state institutions. This decision will impact the perceptions of both.