In August, the CEC canceled voting in the territory under its control. The basis for this decision was allegedly the data of the civil-military administrations (CMA), which declared a high probability of shelling. This issue was also raised at the N4 negotiations. Battles are also taking place under the dome of the Verkhovna Rada — some of the deputies are sincerely perplexed about why presidential and parliamentary elections were held in Donbass, but they do not allow them to choose local authorities.
Elections in the controlled territory
On August 8, the CEC made a decision that local elections will be canceled in parts of districts and cities of Donbass-controlled region. According to the law, such decisions are made by the CEC, therefore, at first glance, the legal norms were observed.
The election committee appeals to the conclusions of the CMA and the command of the JFO (Joint Forces Operation) , which stated that the silence regime introduced in accordance with the Minsk agreements «cannot guarantee one hundred percent security for residents of settlements located along the contact line.»
However, experts agree that the proximity of polling stations to the theater of operations is a dubious reason for canceling the elections. Even the CEC members themselves cannot explain this decision. According to ex-People’s Deputy Yuriy Miroshnichenko, who oversees elections in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions in the election commission, people in Donbass could safely vote in the presidential and parliamentary elections.
“In some communities from those that are now excluded, even in 2015 they voted and formed local councils. I don’t want to question the data received from the civil-military administrations, but there is no evidence that the situation has worsened, ”Miroshnichenko said.
In addition, according to the scandalous bill on the conduct of local elections, which was adopted on July 15, the Rada generally banned elections to regional councils throughout the Donbass.
Experts are confident that the cancellation of elections in the controlled Donbass is a direct violation of the Constitution of Ukraine. According to political scientist Ruslan Bortnik, the postponement of the vote is possible only as a result of a state of emergency, the decision on which is made by the president and approved by the parliament. “Poroshenko failed to do this, and it was this attempt that played a cruel political joke with him,” says Bortnik.
Against the background of the cancellation of the elections, pinpoint rallies took place both in Kiev and in the east. The protests were mainly organized by the local cells of the OPFL, because if we consider the CEC’s decision in a purely political plane, the cancellation of the elections will not allow the opposition to take seats in Donbass.
On the other hand, if we assume that they want to postpone the elections until spring or fall 2021, then perhaps Zelensky’s team hopes for progress in the Normandy Four negotiations and holding elections throughout the region. But given the lack of progress at the negotiating platforms in Berlin and Minsk, this is hard to believe.
Leader of the OPFL, Viktor Medvedchuk, told Vesti.ua that it is “illegal” to cancel elections in the controlled territories.
“This is only possible if martial law is declared there. In other cases, this is all far-fetched, ”Medvedchuk said.
Servant of the People assures that the elections in Donbass will definitely not take place in the coming months. According to the deputy Yevgenia Kravchuk, the Donetsk branch of the ruling party assures that “the inhabitants of Donbass must exercise their right to elect power”, but this should be done when “it will be safe there”.
However, as the People’s Deputy from “Servant of the People” Oleksandr Kachura, who prepared a document of amendments to the decree on local elections, told Vesti.ua, 70% of the mono-majority were ready to vote for amendments to the law. Including, in terms of holding local elections in the controlled part of Donbass. However, for a number of «technical reasons», elections in Donbass are no longer possible to be held in October.
“If we had adopted the draft amendments to the law earlier, the elections could have taken place. The head of the Central Election Commission, Oleg Didenko, even confirmed this to me several months ago. He said: «Everything is technically possible if you solve the issue with the law in a week.» However, everything dragged on and now it is impossible, ”the people’s deputy said.
Elections in the uncontrolled Donbass
The question of holding elections in the uncontrolled part of Donbass is even more exciting. If the postponement of voting in the controlled part was motivated by the fear of the “servants” not to get a seat, then the elections to the “LDPR (Lugansk and Donetsk People’s Republics )” are a stumbling block in negotiations N4.
Back in May 2020, the head of the Servant of the People party, Alexander Kornienko, argued that elections in the uncontrolled territories could be held simultaneously with national ones. Then he stated that they are working on this both in the Rada and in the Office of the President. “We believe in this with the whole team, together with Andrey Ermak, that it will happen in one day. We are working to achieve this, ”he said.
However, as the experts assumed, the elections will not take place, and even the OPU (Office of the President of Ukraine) still do not know whether it is realistic to hold them in general. And this is despite the fact that holding elections on the territory of the “LDPR” may become one of the key steps to resolve the conflict in Donbass.
During the seven-hour council meeting in Berlin on September 11, no significant progress was made. Including because of the scandalous law on local elections.
Immediately after the talks in Berlin, the representative of the Russian Federation Dmitry Kozak said that the Ukrainian side allegedly agreed to change the resolution in the Rada. This was denied in the Office of the President, however, according to the representative of Ukraine in the Trilateral Contact Group on Ukraine, Andriy Kostin, during the Berlin meeting, the Ukrainian delegation nevertheless noted the possibility of amending the resolution. According to him, on July 28, a resolution was registered in the Rada, which «fully corresponds to the Minsk complex of measures» — it was prepared by the people’s deputy Alexander Kachura.
Deputy Prime Minister for the Temporarily Occupied Territories of Ukraine Oleksiy Reznikov said that Ukraine did not promise to revise the resolution, but only informed Russia that Kachura’s initiative was registered in parliament. At the same time, he later stated that the resolution really contradicts Minsk.
“The adopted resolution states that first there should be control over the border, and then elections. Politically, I support this position. But the ninth paragraph of the Minsk agreements, unfortunately, says something else: first the elections, «Reznikov said.
The main change concerns the fourth paragraph of the resolution — Kachura proposes to establish that local elections in Donbass are possible only after the full completion of the procedures for «disarmament, demilitarization and reintegration in accordance with UN and OSCE standards,» however, the reference to the Russian Federation is removed from the text of the law. This mention, according to the People’s Deputy himself, was “a trump card for the aggressor state,” which was used to drag out the negotiation process.
“Earlier I suggested making these changes, but the deputies dismissed this idea. Now we are returning to it, because we have virtually blocked the issues of returning 300 prisoners, disengaging troops in three sectors, and building new checkpoints. We are waiting for representatives of the TCG, the President’s Office, and Deputy Prime Minister Reznikov to coordinate actions. We need a discussion, since the process of preparing for the elections has already begun, ”he told Vesti.ua and added that the fourth paragraph of the resolution“ was full of political statements, which could have been dispensed with ”.
We have already written that, according to Kachura, 70% of the «servants of the people» can vote for amendments to the bill. The head of the faction, David Arahamia, said that «this can open up many processes on the way to peace.» The remaining 30% assure that they will not vote for the initiative, since the resolution adopted in July is in “national interests”. These are, for example, the “patriotically charged” deputies Nikita Poturayev and Yegor Chernyaev. In addition, deputies from the European Solidarity and Golos traditionally oppose the amendments to the law.
On September 17, a meeting of the faction was supposed to take place with the participation of Reznikov, at which it was planned to discuss the introduction of changes, but it was postponed due to the deputy prime minister’s illness. Therefore, it is not yet clear when the draft amendments to the law will reach the session hall.
However, according to Kachura himself, it makes little sense to vote for the changes — the electoral process has begun, elections to regional councils are no longer possible. “Now these are purely diplomatic stories,” the people’s deputy concluded. That is, this year Donbass will remain without elections, despite all attempts by deputies and officials of the President’s Office to regulate this process. And, judging by the current situation, now the authorities are guided not by the constitutional rights of the inhabitants of Donbass, but by political PR.
Marina Yakovenko, Vesti