Fact Check

Did Zelenskyy Say There Would Be No Elections in Ukraine Until War Ends?

The Ukrainian Constitution does not allow for elections when martial law is imposed.

Published Jun 27, 2023

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Claim:
Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelenskyy said in June 2023 that the country would hold no elections until its war with Russia ends.
Context

The Ukrainian constitution prohibits holding elections during periods of martial law.

On June 22, 2023, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told the BBC that Ukraine's scheduled 2023 parliamentary and 2024 presidential elections would occur only if martial law had ended by that time, as reported by the New Voice of Ukraine:

Elections in Ukraine will be held in 2024 only if martial law is ended by then, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in an interview with the BBC on June 22.

Zelenskyy emphasized that according to the Ukrainian constitution, no elections could be held in the country while martial law remains in effect.

He expressed hope that there would be peace in Ukraine next year, and life would be returning to normal.

Zelenskyy first declared martial law at the start of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine by Russian forces on Feb. 22, 2022. Zelenskyy most recently extended that declaration to August 30, 2023. Based on terms outlined in the Ukrainian Constitution, elections for Ukraine's parliamentary body the Verkhovna Rada and for the presidency cannot be held when martial law is imposed. A longstanding law passed by the Verkhovna Rada makes this explicit:

Under martial law, the following are prohibited: [...] conducting elections of the President of Ukraine, as well as elections to the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, the Verkhovna Rada of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and local self-government bodies [...].

The June 22, 2023, announcement was not the first time this issue has come up. In May 2023, the president of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) — the deliberative body behind the Council of Europe — strongly pressured Ukraine to hold elections as currently scheduled, as Ukrainian Pravda reported:

PACE President Tiny Kox told European Pravda that Ukraine must hold parliamentary and presidential elections even while martial law is in effect. He stressed that the Ukrainian government must come up with ways to address this challenge.

Kox admitted that the Ukrainian constitution does not allow [...] elections while martial law is in effect, but said that Ukraine has to "find a solution".

"That is not up to us to say how to do it, but of course Ukraine has to organise free and fair elections," Kox said. He also stressed that Ukraine "has to hold free and fair elections, because that is one obligation under the statute and under our conventions. And you will do so."

In response to that demand, Oleksii Danilov, secretary of Ukraine's National Security and Defense Council (NSDC), expressed frustration that PACE was telling Ukraine to ignore its own constitution, as Ukrainian Pravda reported:

I want to stress that the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) has to realize that we have our own Constitution and our own laws, which we must observe. PACE would be better off doing other things, [for example] not allowing the Russian Federation to meddle in their affairs. We will handle this [i.e., the question of elections - ed.] ourselves, in accordance with our laws and our Constitution. When the [martial law] is in effect, as it currently is, no elections can take place. Full stop.

In June 2023, 77% of Ukrainians supported Zelenskyy's reelection. Because Zelenskyy did make this announcement, and because the Ukrainian law does indeed prohibit elections during martial law, the claim is true.

Sources

CoE Summit on Ukraine and War: Support and Demands. Interview by PACE President Tiny Kox. www.youtube.com, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iUg7H2KkcZ0. Accessed 27 June 2023.

Over 70% of Ukrainians Want Zelenskyy to Remain President. https://english.nv.ua/nation/77-of-ukrainians-want-ukraine-president-zelensky-to-stay-president-ukraine-news-50332963.html. Accessed 27 June 2023.

"Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe." Parliament.Uk, https://www.parliament.uk/mps-lords-and-offices/offices/delegations/coe/.

Ukraine to Hold Elections after War Ends, Says Zelenskyy. https://english.nv.ua/nation/ukraine-to-hold-elections-after-war-ends-says-zelenskyy-50333899.html. Accessed 27 June 2023.

"Verkhovna Rada Prolongs Martial Law and Mobilisation in Ukraine." Ukrainska Pravda, https://www.pravda.com.ua/eng/news/2023/05/2/7400334/. Accessed 27 June 2023.

"Про правовий режим воєнного стану." Офіційний вебпортал парламенту України, https://zakon.rada.gov.ua/go/389-19. Accessed 27 June 2023.

Alex Kasprak is an investigative journalist and science writer reporting on scientific misinformation, online fraud, and financial crime.

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