Select Your Language



Can Ukraine's Zelenskyy stay in power without an election?

Can Ukraine's Zelenskyy stay in power without an election?


, Monday, 20 May 2024 (11:17 IST)
Volodymyr Zelenskyy's five-year term as Ukraine's president formally ends on May 20. An election would normally have been held in late March, but the parliament postponed the vote as the country is still at war and under martial law. But a major question remains for Ukrainians: who might succeed Zelenskyy once he leaves office?
In early 2024, few politicians and commentators openly pondered who could, or should, follow Zelenskyy. At the end of February, when Zelenskyy looked back on the past two years of fighting with Russia, the president dismissed any talk questioning his legitimacy as a "hostile narrative."
Speaking with journalists, Zelenskyy said neither the country's allies nor anyone in Ukraine were asking such questions. He said any such speculation was "part of the Russian Federation's program."
Ukrainian legal experts consulted by DW said they expected Zelenskyy would remain in power until a new president is elected. "The Ukrainian constitution states this clearly," said Andriy Mahera, of the Center of Policy and Legal Reform in Kyiv. "The president does not automatically lose his powers five years after inauguration. These powers are only removed when the newly elected president takes office, i.e., after elections."
Presidential and parliamentary elections are currently out of the question. Ukraine's constitution places a temporary restriction on the former, whereas martial law bans both — in part , officials have said, to protect voters from harm.
Should Zelenskyy resign?
Martial law also curtails certain civil liberties. "Some constitutional rights and freedoms are restricted, for example, the right to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and freedom of movement," said Mahera. The Central Election Commission and the Institute of Lawmaking and Scientific-Legal Expertises of National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine issued similar assessments earlier this year.
Veteran Ukrainian politicians have also waded into the debate. Hryhoriy Omelchenko, a former parliamentarian and member of the constitutional drafting commission of the mid-1990s, said it was no coincidence that the extension of presidential terms remains unregulated, adding that this serves as safeguard.
Even so, Omelchenko penned a letter to Zelenskyy — published in Ukrajina Moloda newspaper in March — urging the president "not to usurp state power" and to voluntarily resign in May.
Zelenskyy's legitimacy derives not just from the law, but also from broad popular support. A survey conducted by Ukraine's Razumkov Center in January found that 69% of respondents trust Zelenskyy. Less than a quarter said they do not trust the president.
A survey by the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology (KIIS) in early February found that 69% of respondents thought Zelenskyy should remain in power until martial law ends. Only 15% of those surveyed supported holding elections in the current circumstances, and 10% wanted Zelenskyy to hand over power to parliamentary Speaker Ruslan Stefanchuk.
KIIS executive director Anton Hrushetskyi told DW that either scenario risked undermining the government's legitimacy and destabilizing Ukraine.
"Millions of people are abroad, millions live under occupation, hundreds of thousands are serving in the army — if citizens cannot take part in elections, as either voters or candidates, this will undermine the legitimacy of the election results," he said.
Constitutional Court could rule on president's powers
Legal experts told DW that the Constitutional Court should settle the debate over the president's powers and the timing of an election. "Only the Constitutional Court can interpret the constitution to ascertain whether other laws are in line with it," said Mahera.
The president, government, Supreme Court, a group of 45 parliamentarians or parliament's human rights commissioner would need to call on the Constitutional Court to review the matter.
Dzerkalo Tyzhnia reported in late February that Zelenskyy's office was working on a petition to the Constitutional Court. According to the news site , the plan was for 45 members of Zelenskyy's Servant of the People party to file the petition.
According to the parliamentary group, Zelenskyy has full legitimacy. The opposition is largely in agreement.
Various parties in Ukraine have said they have no intention of appealing to the Constitutional Court, highlighting an inter-party agreement not to hold elections until martial law ends.

Share this Story:

Follow Webdunia english

Next Article

Ebrahim Raisi: What to know about the Iranian president