- In peacetime, presidential elections will begin in the spring
- Martial law prohibits holding elections
- Zelensky calls for unity amid emerging rifts
KYIV, Nov 6 (Reuters) – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has dismissed any idea of wartime elections as irresponsible, with talks heating up recently over whether Kiev should vote when under Russian attack.
Zelensky’s comments, calling for unity to avoid pointless political debates, seemed to dismiss any suggestion that Ukraine should hold a vote to prove that its democratic credentials remain in good shape.
While martial law declared in the country at the start of Russia’s large-scale invasion in February 2022 prevents the authorities from holding elections, there has been growing debate at home and abroad about possible elections in March 2024.
In his evening video address, Zelensky said it was necessary to focus on the military challenges facing Ukraine as it tries to expel Russian forces occupying nearly a fifth of its territory more than 20 months after launching its invasion.
He said: “We all realize that now, in wartime, when there are so many challenges, it is completely irresponsible to engage in election-related topics in such a trivial manner.”
“We must realize that this is the time for defense, the time for battle, on which the fate of the state and its people depends… I believe that elections are not appropriate at this time.”
In peacetime, Ukraine would have held parliamentary elections in October, and the first round of presidential elections in early spring 2024.
US Republican Senator Lindsey Graham Some other Western officials urged Kiev to hold elections to demonstrate its ability to hold free and fair elections during war.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said over the weekend that the president was considering the pros and cons of holding elections during wartime.
Zelensky himself had previously said he would be willing to hold the vote if Ukraine gets the help it needs – and if elections are deemed necessary.
While Zelensky’s popularity soared after the Russian invasion began, there are growing signs of impatience with the Ukrainian leader among some of Kiev’s Western allies.
There is also an appearance of division in the country’s leadership after Ukraine’s top leader suggested the war had reached a steady state, an explanation Zelensky strongly denied over the weekend.
Zelensky said on Monday that if it proves necessary to end the divisive talk, there are state structures “capable of making those decisions and providing all the necessary answers to society.”
He added that it is important for state institutions to stand fully behind the war effort, “and not in paving stones or repairing streets.”
He said the country had to focus “much more on defence… especially at the regional level,” and called for efforts to ensure there was no repeat of a weekend Russian strike on a Ukrainian general in which military officials said the country’s 19 soldiers were killed.
Zelensky had previously said that the attack in the southern Zaporizhya region was a “tragedy that could have been avoided.” Ukrainian media reported that the soldiers were killed during an awards ceremony on Friday, although the full circumstances remain unclear.
(This story has been corrected to fix the date of the Russian invasion to February 2022, not February 2024, in paragraph 3)
(Reporting by Ron Popeski and Oleksandr Kozhar; Preparing by Muhammad for the Arabic Bulletin) Editing by Chris Reese, Jonathan Oatis and Lincoln Feast.
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