“We must decide that now is the time of defense, the time of battle, on which the fate of the state and people depends,” Zelensky said in his daily address on Monday.
“I believe that now is not the time for elections”, but for Ukraine to stay united, he added.
Ukraine’s Foreign Minister, Dmitry Kuleba, said last week that Zelensky was “weighing” whether to hold a presidential election in 2024. Kuleba noted that such a vote would be difficult to organize, with millions of Ukrainians out of the country due to the conflict with Russia, and hundreds of thousands fighting on the front lines.
Parliamentary elections, which were supposed to be held this month, have been postponed indefinitely on account of martial law, instituted in February 2022. Ukrainian laws forbid voting or campaigning during the state of emergency.
Zelensky has been under mounting pressure from the West for months to at least pay lip service to democracy by holding elections. A number of EU politicians as well as US senators have made such arguments to Kiev.
He outright rejected the idea in May, pointing to the regulations about martial law. By August, however, some of Zelensky’s aides were suggesting an election might be possible, with the speaker of the Ukrainian parliament suggesting that the laws could be amended because “democracy cannot stop”.
For the longest time, it was unclear if anyone would even challenge Zelensky. Ukraine has banned a dozen political parties as “pro-Russian” under a law enacted in May 2022, including the largest opposition bloc. A US-funded poll published last month showed Zelensky with an 80% approval rating, though his disapproval had more than doubled since April.
Last week, however, Zelensky’s former aide Alexey Arestovich announced he would challenge his old boss for the presidency whenever the next election is called. The presidential spin doctor was responsible for much of the propaganda emanating from Kiev in 2022, but resigned in January after “mistakenly” admitting that civilians had been killed by an errant Ukrainian air defense missile, and not a Russian airstrike.