The intrigue surrounding the 18 October and 1 November local elections in the self-declared Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics – whether they would be cancelled or not – first surfaced some time ago. But it was not until approximately 3:30 p.m. on 6 October that could anyone say for certain what the final decision would be, considering the difficulty which has been had in implementing the Minsk Agreements.
Prior to the announcement of the decision to cancel the elections, we turned to experts in the self-proclaimed republics and Ukraine to ask them how they thought events would progress.
Political science and political expertise are not only the ability to explain the course of events but also to predict future scenarios. Knowing the outcome, we can now compare it with the expectations that experts had prior to the fact. In addition, Europe Insight asked in advance what would happen if and when the elections were cancelled.
Questions: In your view, will local elections be cancelled in the DPR and LPR? And if they are, then what sorts of consequences will there be for the republics?
Alexei Koshel, CEO of NGO Ukraine Voters Committee
There is a rather high chance of elections in the DPR and LPR being postponed since this is a question of a difficult compromise found in Paris. This year the issue of elections, their dates, postponement, cancellation, etc. have acquired special significance. This is because the elections are just a pretext, a minor tool being used towards achieving a truce.
Insofar as the fundamental solution was achieved in Paris, it is fully obvious that the elections will be postponed. But in the future we will most likely see an exceptionally complicated diplomatic “epic” game between the EU, Russia and Ukraine, which will help to maintain the truce.
It is clear to everyone today that even if the LPR and DPR postpone the election dates, and even if the Contact Group comes to an agreement about the election law, there are more important questions at hand. One of the most crucial concerns the return of the ATO (Anti-Terrorist Operation) zone to Ukraine’s information field: free access to the mass media, journalists being able to work freely, and, of course, the cessation of the activities of media outlets which have come out with separatist statements.
Democratic elections would be, in fact, the return of full control over the region to official Kiev. If on 18 October there are no elections in the DPR and LPR, this will not present any problems for the governing regimes in those places since absolutely everything there is run manually.
Kirill Cherkashin, candidate of political science, dean of the History Department at Donetsk National University (DPR)
I am sure that elections for the city and regional heads will take place on 18 October: 80% certainty because no clear stance has been heard on the Ukrainian side. It comes out like, “Cancel the elections!” – But what’s in it for us? It’s not clear.
Again, no one is really going to pass the amnesty and special status laws. Therefore, I think that the elections for the city and regional heads will take place, but consultations about elections to the local councils will continue. Most likely, they will happen early next year.
If the 18 October elections are by chance postponed, no fundamental political consequences for the republic are foreseen. Of course, postponing elections in the DPR will result in public dissatisfaction, but this is not (yet) very likely to turn into any sort of open demonstrations.
Yuriy Yakymenko, Deputy Director General and Director of Political and Legal Programmes at the Razumkov Centre
There is the possibility that elections in DPR and LPR will be postponed, but everything will depend exclusively on Russia’s position. Whatever decision is taken in Moscow, the very same one will be taken in Donetsk and Lugansk. There is no basis for saying that these elections have some kind of significance or are somehow legitimate. I think the decision regarding postponement will not reflect on the status of the political regimes ruling in these areas.
Darya Mitina, UCP CC Secretary, former representative of the DPR Foreign Ministry in Moscow
By all appearances, under the pressure of the so-called Normandy Quartet, elections in the DPR and LPR, scheduled for 18 October and 1 November, will be postponed for an indeterminate period. The press conference of the head of the DPR CEC, Roman Lyagin, which had been scheduled for today and which regularly reports on the progress of election preparations, was cancelled. This, in my opinion, lets us know without a doubt that the speakers of the Minsk Group Pushilin and Deineho will today inform us of a postponement.
Of course this is a huge concession to the West on the part of Russia. It is quite obvious that the popular republics are ready for elections; they are fully prepared for conducting the elections and the campaigns are in full swing there. Nevertheless, incapable of acting with complete political independence, they are forced to go along with decisions made by the Putin administration.
From the point of view of the internal situation in the republics themselves, nothing will change for them. The current regional and city heads will continue to fulfill their responsibilities, and with or without economy, the budget is quite limited. From the standpoint of the republics’ political self-determination, of course, postponing the elections does nothing to benefit their sovereignty.
My prediction is that there will not be any elections on the basis of Ukrainian law in the DPR and LPR in October, or November, or February, or March – just because it is impossible. At this point, Donbass is never going to be Ukrainian again; you can’t stuff minced meat back into the grinder. The problem is that while these senseless and incomprehensible diplomatic games go on, the population of Donbass is suffering under bombardments and the inability to operate in a full-fledged economy. And the biggest problem is the DPR and LPR territories occupied by the Ukrainian Army. Nothing is said of them in the Minsk Agreements and it seems they have been forgotten by everyone.
Ivan Lukerya, an expert at the Ukrainian Center for Independent Political Research
It is possible the elections will be cancelled if we pass the special status law and agree on a specific date and the conditions under which elections may be held (in particular the withdrawal of foreign troops or lack thereof).