Ukraine: what elections on May 25th ?

Translation kindly done by Anne-Marie de Grazia

Following the tragic events of May 2nd, the situation in Ukraine has continued degrading. The governments of the EU countries, of the US and of Kiev insist that the presidential elections foreseen for May 25th should take place. The Russian government has expressed doubts on this subject. One can appreciate that there is indeed little probability that elections can be held over the totality of the Ukrainian territory. Yet this problem is secondary in relation to the question which must be prominent: do these elections constitute a possible political solution, or will they aggravate the situation? The presidential election is not a solution; it has become part and parcel of the crisis which risks precipitating Ukraine into civil war.

The illusion of the presidential election.

There is clearly an urgent need to rebuild a democratic legitimacy in Ukraine. The provisory government sieging at Kiev is considered neither legal nor legitimate by part of the Ukrainian population. One might therefore conclude that one should indeed proceed with the elections.  But the idea of a presidential election harks back to a situation, which has long been superseded: the time when the principal problem was the replacement of the elected president, Victor Yanukovich. However, since the beginning of March, and this has been expressed and written in many instances on this carnet, the question is not about knowing who will govern Ukraine, but about what Ukraine one can refer to. The national pact has been affected by the events which have occurred since the end of February. To deny it is not only irresponsible, but criminal as well.

If a presidential election is maintained, the most probable scenario is that the insurgents of the Eastern regions of Ukraine will refuse that this election take place and will organize, as they have shown the intent, a referendum on independence. In the present context, these referenda are just as legitimate as a presidential election (or just as illegitimate). The most evident result will be to make glaring to everybody, Ukrainians and others, the de facto scission of the country. Is this what we want to arrive at? We must here warn all these who defend the idea of a presidential election on May 25th, and particularly leaders of European countries such as François Hollande in France: through your attitude, you are going to render inevitable a scission of Ukraine. Yours is in reality a firebrand discourse and you will carry the responsibility of the dead which will occur in that country. For, let’s not nurture the slightest illusion: the scission of Ukraine has very little chance to occur pacifically. There will be a civil war at the heart of Europe, with all the horrors which such a war entails, and among those responsible for this war one will have to count all those leaders who, through blindness or calculation, have supported the Kiev government in its will to carry on elections. From this point of view, it is clear that the declaration made on May 6th by François Hollande on RMC and BFM-TV is not only irresponsible, but that it could have tragic consequences in the very short term.

What is needed is the election to an assembly with Constitutional Powers.

We must therefore go back to the origins of this situation. We have said that the Kiev government is seeing its legality and its legitimacy contested. Elections are indeed needed, but these elections must meet the only subject which does not divide irremediably the Ukrainians, namely the future institutional statute of Ukraine. When a political community is torn apart to the point that the question as to what “makes up” the people arises, the only solution is to give back its voice to this people so that it can decide if it can have a common future, and in what form. To pretend to hold a vote on who will hold supreme power when one is not even sure that there still exists a « res publica» a « public thing, » is an absurdity. To defend this politically becomes then a grave political error, which signals either the incompetence of those who do so, or which bears witness to the fact that they are in reality defending hidden interests. And one must ask oneself the question about who, in Western Europe or in the United States, might have an interest in civil war breaking out in Ukraine.

But another issue is possible. It is clear that the problem at present is the problem of the future institutions of Ukraine. Which is why, since the beginning of the crisis, last March, I have defended the idea of elections to an Assembly with Constitutional powers. Such an assembly would also, of course, have legislative powers. But such an assembly should have two rules of majority depending on the problems it would be addressing. Legislative questions could be dealt with  a simple or with an absolute majority, depending on the cases. Institutional questions would necessitate a qualified majority of the two thirds, or of 70%. This would give to the populations of the East of Ukraine the guarantee that their demands of a large autonomy would be heard. The institutional future of the country once decided, and let’s leave the Ukrainians free to decide, it will then be possible and necessary to proceed to a presidential election as well as to elections to a legislative assembly, and to any other elections, according to the institutional solution which will have been preferred.

 The conditions for an election of a Constituant Assembly and their consequences in France.

The organisation of elections to a Constituant Assembly is far more acceptable to the insurgents, because for a large number of them le principal problem is to be heard and respected in the frame of a Ukrainian State. It is an error to believe that the insurrection is carried on by a handful of « separatists. » In the majority movement agitating in the regions of Eastern Ukraine, one finds indeed separatism, but also a deep rejection of most of the Ukrainian political parties, a justified fear of the nationalists which hold the street in the West of the country, and the feeling that the specificities of the Eastern Ukrainian populations have been neither respected nor acknowledged. All this will be able to express itself in the election of deputies to this Constituant Assembly. Concretely, the organisation of this election would nevertheless imply that the following measures be taken:

  1. It is essential that the Kiev government put an end immediately and unilaterally to its military operations.
  2. It is of the utmost importance that contacts be taken up between the present government and the insurgents, in order to stabilize the situation on the ground.
  3. It is necessary that an accord be found rapidly, reporting the presidential election foreseen for May 25th, but also the referenda which the insurgents purport to organize.


The governments of European countries should unite their efforts in order to weigh on the Kiev government and show to it the path of reason. We must point out that, for the time being, they are doing the exact opposite. It says a lot, alas, about the devastating effects of blind atlantism and europeism, particularly in our own country. We must remember this at the time of the European elections and unremittingly punish those who, to the left or to the right, bear the responsibility for this atlantism and this europeism.


Jacques Sapir

Ses travaux de chercheur se sont orientés dans trois dimensions, l’étude de l’économie russe et de la transition, l’analyse des crises financières et des recherches théoriques sur les institutions économiques et les interactions entre les comportements individuels. Il a poursuivi ses recherches à partir de 2000 sur les interactions entre les régimes de change, la structuration des systèmes financiers et les instabilités macroéconomiques. Depuis 2007 il s'est impliqué dans l’analyse de la crise financière actuelle, et en particulier dans la crise de la zone Euro.

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