After suggesting the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine could force his country to postpone its regularly scheduled elections, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said a vote might occur on schedule after all—if he can get enough financial help from the United States and its allies.
Ukraine is currently under a state of martial law, with that martial law period being extended in 90-day increments. Under Ukrainian law, elections and other forms of political activity cannot take place during a period of martial law. The Ukrainian parliament declared martial law after Russian forces invaded the country in February of 2022 and the governing body has continued to renew that martial law declaration every few months as the war rages on.
“I can’t just take 5 billion [hryvnia] from the budget, as it seems to me that this is the amount needed to hold elections in normal times, and in wartime, I don’t know what the amount would be,” Mr. Zelenskyy said.
5 billion hryvnia is about $135 million.
Mr. Zelenskyy said he would favor elections “if the United States of America together with Europe gives us financial support.”
While the United States and other Western countries have contributed billions in financial aid to Ukraine since the war began, Mr. Zelenskyy said new funding would be needed as the money Ukraine has received so far is mostly going toward weapons.
“I will not hold elections on credit. I will not take money from weapons and allocate it to elections, either,” the Ukrainian president said. “This is provided for by law. But if you give me this financial support and if the parliamentarians understand that we need to do this, then let’s change the legislation quickly.”
In addition to more financial support, Mr. Zelenskyy said he would also want international election observers in place, including near the front lines of the war, to monitor the polls and voting conditions.
According to the Ukrainian president, Mr. Graham was “very satisfied” with his election proposals. Mr. Graham affirmed the election talks in a Monday press statement.
“I am very pleased to hear that President Zelensky has opened the door to elections in Ukraine in 2024,“ the U.S. senator said in press statement shared with NTD News. ”I cannot think of a better symbol for Ukraine than to hold free and fair elections during the course of a war. Elections would not only be seen as an act of defiance against the Russian invasion, but an embrace of democracy and freedom.
“I realize the Ukrainian Parliament must approve this and the security environment to conduct an election would be challenging. However, I cannot think of a better investment for the stability of Europe than helping Ukraine survive as an independent, self-governing, Rule of Law-based democracy. I would encourage all of Ukraine’s allies to help provide the financial and technical assistance to support this effort.
Holding an election could prove challenging for a number of reasons. The fighting has caused millions to flee the country. Russian forces also control large swathes of land in the east of Ukraine, raising questions about whether and how election officials will count votes in those occupied areas.
In his Sunday interview, Mr. Zelenskyy said he would focus on finding ways to record the votes of troops fighting on the frontlines and refugees living abroad.
Tiny Kox, the president of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, has said it would be important for Ukraine to hold elections even if they cannot be administered perfectly.
“Nobody will blame Ukraine if not everything will be perfect,” Mr. Kox said in a May 16 interview with European Pravda. “Everybody will blame Ukraine if you do not organize elections.”
Mr. Kox said that Ukraine, as a member nation in the Council of Europe, “has to hold free and fair elections because that is one obligation under the statute and under our conventions.”