A senior US official told The Washington Post that the Biden administration is not pressuring Ukraine to hold elections, while some Western officials do want to see a wartime vote.
“We’re not pushing them to have an election,” the unnamed official said. The Post report said that the Biden administration was “sympathetic” to the logistical obstacles to holding a vote, which includes the fact that millions of Ukrainian refugees are in Europe.
The administration’s position runs counter to its rhetoric about the war, which it has framed as a battle for democracy. Ukraine’s constitution prohibits elections during martial law, but Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has expressed an openness to holding elections if the West foots the bill.
Zelensky made the comments last month after receiving a visit from Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). According to the Post, the senators pressed Zelensky on holding elections, an idea initially floated by Tiny Kox, a Dutch politician serving as the head of the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly.
The Post report quoted former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who said Ukraine would lose the war if elections were held. “The price of holding elections in wartime will be a lost war,” she said. “Unity is an indispensable resource for our victory.”
There is a precedent for holding a wartime vote, as the US held presidential elections at the height of the Civil War in 1864. President Lincoln’s opponent, George B. McClellan, wanted to pursue peace with the Confederacy to end the war.
Over the summer, Ukraine extended martial law until November 15, pushing back parliamentary elections scheduled for October. Martial law will be extended as long as there is a war, and there’s no sign the conflict will end by March 2024, when Ukraine’s next presidential election is set to be held.