Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Sunday that Ukrainian elections could happen in wartime if Kyiv receives funding from its Western backers and Ukraine’s legislators are willing to hold a vote.
Zelensky previously said elections can’t happen because they’re forbidden by Ukraine’s constitution during martial law, which was recently extended until November 15. Ukraine’s next parliamentary elections are scheduled for October 2023, and the next presidential election is due to be held in March 2024.
Martial law is expected to be extended into 2024 as there’s no sign the war will end anytime soon. Ukraine’s martial law prohibits men ages 18-60 from leaving the country. In March 2022, Zelensky used his martial law powers to ban 11 opposition parties and nationalize TV media.
Zelensky made the comments on Sunday in response to calls from Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) for Ukraine to hold elections in 2024. The Ukrainian leader acknowledged that his country could lose some Western support for not holding elections as the war is being sold as a battle to uphold democracy.
“The logic is that if you are protecting democracy, then you have to think about this protection even during times of war. Elections are one of the protections. But there is a reason why elections are prohibited by law during wartime – it is very difficult to hold them,” he said, according to Ukrainska Pravda.
Zelensky said he told Graham when the hawkish senator visited Kyiv last week that Ukraine could hold elections if legislators agree to change the law, and the US and Europe foot the bill to pay for election observers on the frontlines and to provide voting access to millions of refugees living abroad.
Zelensky said elections in peacetime cost 5 billion hryvnia (US$135 million) and that he wasn’t sure how much it would be to hold them in wartime. The Ukrainian leader added that he would not use money meant for weapons to hold a vote. “I will not take money from weapons and give it to elections,” he added.