Ukraine’s Zelensky dismisses talk of wartime election as irresponsible
KYIV, Nov 6 (Reuters) - Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky dismissed as irresponsible any notion of holding an election in wartime as talks have heated up recently whether Kyiv should be voting when under Russia's assault.
Calling for unity to avoid pointless political discussion, Zelensky’s comments appeared to rule out any suggestion Ukraine should hold a vote to demonstrate its democratic credentials remain in good order.
While the martial law declared in the country at the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion in February 2022 prohibits authorities from holding elections, there has been increased debate at home and abroad about a potential poll in March 2024.
In his nightly video address, Zelensky said it was critical to concentrate on the military challenges facing Ukraine as it tries to push out Russian forces occupying nearly one-fifth of its land more than 20 months after launching their invasion.
“We all understand that now, in wartime, when there are many challenges, it is utterly irresponsible to engage in topics related to an election in such a frivolous manner,” he said.
“We need to recognise that this is a time for defence, a time for battle, upon which the fate of the state and its people depend… I believe that elections are not appropriate at this time.”
In peacetime, Ukraine would had held parliamentary elections in October and the first round of presidential vote in early spring 2024.
U.S. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham and some other Western officials have urged Kyiv to stage an election to show it can hold free and fair vote while at war.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said at the weekend the president was weighing the pros and cons of a wartime poll.
Zelensky himself had previously said he would be prepared to hold the vote if Ukraine secured the assistance it needed – and if election were deemed necessary.
While Zelensky’s ratings soared after the start of the Russian invasion, there have growing signs of impatience with the Ukrainian leader among some of Kyiv’s western allies.
There is also the appearance of a rift in the country’s leadership after the Ukraine’s top commander signalled the war had come to a static stage, an interpretation which Zelensky vehemently denied over the weekend.
On Monday, Zelensky said that if it proved necessary to end divisive talk, there were state structures “capable of making those decisions and providing all the necessary answers to society.”
He also said it was vital the state’s institutions were fully behind the war effort “and not on paving stones or street repairs”.
The country, he said, had to concentrate “far more on defence…particularly at the regional level,” and called for efforts to ensure there was no recurrence of a Russian strike at the weekend on a Ukrainian brigade in which military officials said 19 soldiers were killed.
Zelensky had earlier said the attack in southern Zaporizhzhia region was “a tragedy that could have been avoided”. Ukrainian media reported the soldiers were killed during an awards ceremony on Friday, although full circumstances remained unclear.
By Oleksandr Kozhukhar and Ronald Popeski
(Reporting by Ron Popeski and Oleksandr Kozhukhar; Editing by Chris Reese, Jonathan Oatis and Lincoln Feast.)