International recognition of elections to Russian State Duma in the occupied Crimea as illegitimate is an important victory for Ukraine – political experts

International recognition of elections to Russian State Duma in the occupied Crimea as illegitimate is an important victory for Ukraine – political experts
September 19, 2016.

Political experts claim that this way is better as it allows space for maneuver.

Kyiv, September 19, 2016. Elections to the State Duma of the Russian Federation held in Crimea helped to bring the issue of Crimea back on international agenda. It also gives Ukraine more space for diplomatic maneuvers, should the question of Russian delegation comeback to the PACE arise again, stated Volodymyr Bondarenko, president of the Taras Shevchenko Institute for Political Studies, and Vadym Karasev, director of the Institute of Global Strategies at a press briefing held at Ukraine Crisis Media Center.  “The fact that elections in Crimea are illegal raises the question whether the new-elected Duma is legitimate. We raised the issue that elections in Crimea are illegitimate and received support of all key countries. This is a diplomatic victory for Ukraine,” said Vadym Karasev. According to Volodymyr Bondarenko, Crimean elections are not in line even with Russian legislation. “According to the Russian Constitution, 225 parliament members should be elected through a majority election system. But this time, together with the candidates from Crimea, there will be 229 MPs elected this way,” he explained. Meanwhile, said the experts, there is no chance that international community will not recognize the elections to the Duma in general: “there is no intention to isolate Russia”.

According to Vadym Karasev, the statement that elections in Crimea “raise a question about legitimacy of the new-elected Duma” is the best possible stand for Ukraine. “This is a mild, compromise formula that is in line with Ukraine’s national interests and leaves our diplomacy enough space for a maneuver,” said Mr. Karasev. In his opinion, Ukraine should state that elections in Crimea are illegitimate and should not recognize elections to the State Duma, but should not insist that the new-elected Duma be recognized illegitimate. “Should we insist that the new-elected Duma be recognized illegitimate, but the international community will recognize the elections, it would be not in favor of Ukraine. Foreign policy requires enough space for maneuver,” he explained.

According to the experts, these parliamentary elections will not bring significant changes to Russia’s internal policy and its relations with Ukraine. In fact, the elections were an academic example of “electoral authoritarianism”: the winners of the race are the same political parties and it’s not surprising. However, there is probability that the party “Yedinaya Rossiya” (“United Russia”) will get a constitutional majority. This would significantly strengthen positions of Vladimir Putin and Dmitriy Medvedev. “This would give opportunity for “Yedinaya Rossiya” and Russian authorities in general to amend the Constitution in order to reshape the rules for the following presidential elections”, elaborated Vadym Karasev.

Russia’s attempts to create illusion of democratic elections, such as appointment of the new head of the Election Commission and allowing some opposition candidates to participate, may be one of the steps expected to contribute to Russian delegation comeback to the PACE, says Mr. Karasev. According  to Volodymyr Bondarenko, it is important for Ukraine to understand that this scenario is possible ant to develop a strategy of maneuvers, because this thaw in relations between the international community and Russia, should it happen, may encourage the latter to conduct  even more aggressive policy towards Ukraine.

“In general, there will be no important changes in Russian policy towards Ukraine, maybe just minor accents […]. We have to be ready to stand strong for our national interest and should not hope for the help of the West or for any positive changes inside Russia,” summed up Vadym Karasev.

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