The self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk (aka Lugansk) People’s Republics (DPR and LPR) in eastern Ukraine held controversial elections on November 11 to choose a new government, despite international commendation of the vote.
The two self proclaimed republics elected new heads of state and parliaments in a vote that was held under a military occupation of the land. The voter turnout as at 18:00 on November 11 was 72.5% in the LPR and 76.2% in the DPR. Pulling out all the stops, the local government offered discounted chickens, eggs and pay rises to anyone that voted.
Contenders for the post of the DPR’s head were Denis Pushilin, Elena Shishkina, Roman Khramenkov, Vladimir Medvedev and Roman Yevstifeyev. Two public movements — the Donetsk Republic and Free Donbass — will vie for seats in the republic’s People’s Council, or legislature.
Four candidates are vying for the office of the LPR’s head. They are acting head of the republic Leonid Pasechnik, plus Oleg Koval, Lyudmila Rusnak and Natalia Sergun. Two public movements — Peace in Luhansk and Luhansk Economic Union — are contending for seats in the 50-seat LPR parliament.
The elections were called following DPR head Alexander Zakharchenko’s death in a terrorist attack. Zakharchenko was killed by a bomb planted at a cafe in August.
The separatists say the vote is a key step toward establishing full-fledged democracy in the regions.
"It's another exam for the civic position, political position for the whole Donetsk Republic," said Pushilin, who became acting head of the Donetsk separatist regime after Zakharchenko’s death.
His Luhansk counterpart Pasechnik said that "we are a free republic, a free country" and denied that the voting was being held contrary to the 2015 agreement signed in Minsk.
Russian representative to the Contact Group Boris Gryzlov said that the package of measures signed in Minsk concerned only municipal elections in Donbass, while the elections of the DPR and LPR heads were not municipal so they would not violate the Minsk process.
The government in Kyiv has called the elections illegitimate. Kremlin-anointed candidates are almost guaranteed to win the polls after potential rivals were prevented from running.
“The current attempt by Russia to justify, organise and then legitimise a fake 'voting' process in the occupied Donbas represents a flagrant violation of norms and principles of international law and Ukrainian legislation and constitutes a blatant breach of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” the Ukrainian foreign ministry said.
Last week, the European Union condemned the elections as "illegal and illegitimate ... they are in breach of international law, undermine the commitments taken under the Minsk agreements and violate Ukraine's sovereignty and law."
The Minsk agreement called for “local elections” held under Ukrainian law and monitored by the Organisation of Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). Moscow and the separatists claimed Sunday's vote does not fit the definition of “local elections” described in the Minsk agreement and faulted Ukraine for failing to pass constitutional reforms on regional autonomy.