The End of Zelensky’s Legitimacy

by | May 29, 2024

The End of Zelensky’s Legitimacy

by | May 29, 2024

zelenskyy and stoltenberg joint press conference. vilnius, lithuania.

Volodymyr Zelensky’s term as the president of Ukraine expired on Monday, May 20. He won’t be leaving office, on the pretense that Ukraine’s Constitution currently prohibits holding elections under a state of martial law. Based on this reasoning, the elections for the Rada, Ukraine’s Parliament, were also canceled in the fall. This seems to make Ukraine a less developed democracy than Haiti, where the legislators left office when their terms expired but no new election had been held. The Western media is rushing to defend Zelensky’s decision to use the law to stay in power without winning a new election, because of course Democracy™ just means “our side” and “managerial government enslaved by financial interests” to them.

There are three major problems with the Ukrainian government’s claims here. First, is entirely possible for Zelensky and his party to change the law to hold elections if they were so inclined. Second, Zelensky himself has refused to make peace or even take part in realistic negotiations with Russia. And third, most of Ukraine is not a war zone and keeping the whole of the country under martial law is unjustified. Up to this point, Ukraine has shut down a churchbanned opposition political partiesconsolidated media into one platform, and now has a government where no one is currently serving a legal term. The only conclusion we can come to is that at this time Ukraine is a massively less democratic country than Russia.

Regarding changing the Constitution to hold elections under martial law, Zelensky himself has said it was possible but demanded that the United States would have to pay for it for them to do so. The Western powers have not shown any interest in this happening, with the BBC going so far as to say that Zelensky’s popularity makes elections unnecessary anyhow. There isn’t great data on this because of the lack of interest, but one Ukrainian organization known as SOCIS conducted a poll at the beginning of 2024 which showed that the General Valerii Zaluzhnyi could beat Zelensky by a wide margin—Zaluzhnyi was removed from his position around the time this poll was released.

Of course, one could argue this about any election when there is almost no polling data and you aren’t holding the election to see what happens. I wonder if the Joe Biden administration has considered this strategy: just claim American elections are unnecessary as the result is a foregone conclusion. It isn’t being overly cynical to imagine that Ukraine’s sponsors don’t want to hold elections because they fear a successor would make peace, despite that any parties which seem likely to do so have been banned on the grounds that they are “disloyal.” (I’ve been assured that no country would allow such parties to operate during a war.)

There are a few ways in which political leaders stay in power well past their terms, and the most common is because of some sort of ongoing emergency which they say prevents elections from being held. I will grant Zelensky that Russia’s invasion is a much more serious crisis than a rebel group in the hinterlands or undefined security concerns. But this doesn’t change the fact that he is the one refusing any path towards peace. Zelensky continues to take a maximalist position which no one can possibly believe in: the war will be over when Ukraine restores its borders at the time of independence, which is to say when they’ve taken all of Crimea and the Donbas. Even for our era of absurdity, this is the least reality-based position Zelensky could possibly take, and is indicative of someone who is not trying to end the war. Add to that the fact that he keeps promoting a “Peace Summit” which Russia won’t be at and you can see he isn’t taking peace seriously. Zelensky is basically only willing to negotiate how much Russia will pay in reparations and how to best prosecute Putin. It takes a man of rare delusion to earnestly demand the enemy surrender in a war you are currently losing, but I suppose one has to admire his audacity.

The most important part of this that is never called into question is the premise that Ukraine should be under martial law at all. Contrary to what the media may lead you to believe, this is not a normal long-term status of a “democracy” during a war. Even in Rome, which invented the word “dictator,” the institution of the dictator was strictly limited to one year—and though this wasn’t a legal requirement, generally given to someone who knew about war and was not some comedian.

Martial law is for situations where civil law is unable to function. Even during the world wars most countries were not under martial law. In fact, Adolf Hitler only proclaimed martial law in the front zones in February of 1945, around six weeks before his suicide, and even then not for the whole country. A fair counterpoint is that Nazi Germany had few civil liberties so there was less necessity to suspend them, but the fact that Hitler declared martial law demonstrates there was a difference between that and civilian government. A more relevant example to this current conflict would be France during World War I, which was not under martial law. There are zones of internationally recognized Ukraine that it is impossible to civilly administer; of course, most of all from the Ukrainian perspective are the Russian-occupied ones, but the whole of the country behind the Dnieper has no justification for being under martial law. This is simply tyranny and there is no reason to believe military government helps the civilian part of the country better support the war.

The media repeats endlessly that Ukraine is a great democracy and Russia is the enemy of democracy. However, it is Zelensky that has taken the most undemocratic actions; on top of the civil liberties violations he has decided to simply not have elections. It is objectively true that though it isn’t a particularly free country, Russia is more democratic than Ukraine. People may cry out that Putin has stayed in well past his original term limit, but he dropped down to prime minister and changed the Constitution, which is by all accounts legal. Putin’s path is that of more sophisticated long-time rulers, such as Chad’s Idriss Deby or even Turkey’s Recep Erdogan: change the Constitution and hold elections with fair counting but less fair campaigning. Zelensky instead seems to have gone with the more tinpot method of staying in power: declare an emergency and don’t hold elections at all.

Zelensky may be a professional clown, but I think he has it all figured out. The Zelensky method will be to never make peace because of maximalist aims, attain a ceasefire but permanent state of war, and stay in power forever due to martial law. He is going to be Eastern Europe’s new Kim Dynasty, and you will notice he’s already dressed for the job (though even North Korea bothers to hold fake elections).

Brad Pearce

Brad Pearce

Brad Pearce writes The Wayward Rabbler on Substack. He lives in eastern Washington with his wife and daughter. Brad's main interest is the way government and media narratives shape the public's understanding of the world and generate support for insane and destructive policies.

View all posts

Our Books

libertarian inst books

Related Articles

Related

TGIF: What Free Market in Health Care?

TGIF: What Free Market in Health Care?

Contrary to a popular article of faith, America has no free market in health care—far from it. Consider this: the largest lobby in Washington, D.C., is—wait for it—the health care and health insurance industries. Last year, they spent 5.8 times the amount the...

read more
A Critique of Practical Hasbara

A Critique of Practical Hasbara

Immanuel Kant published The Critique of Pure Reason in 1781. It was the same year the Rebel Alliance triumphed at Yorktown, Virginia. The victory at Yorktown made possible the decline of the British “liberal” empire and the eventual rise of Washinton DCs “non-empire”...

read more
The Switzerland Summit: Peace Through Delusion

The Switzerland Summit: Peace Through Delusion

Ukraine has been at war for over ten years, and even the political establishment wipeout in the European elections has not managed to shock the Western ruling class back into coherence. Nothing could provide a clearer example of their clownish nature than the recent...

read more
Smashing the UK’s Statist Mindset

Smashing the UK’s Statist Mindset

Mainstream British political thought processes contain an epidemic of dreadful reasoning. Witness the average political interaction between “popular” British parliamentarians and voters, think through the reasoning of the topics discussed, and you will know exactly...

read more
Will Trump Learn from Bump Stock Battering?

Will Trump Learn from Bump Stock Battering?

The Supreme Court last Friday struck down one of the most controversial gun control edicts in recent years. The ruling on bump stocks is being widely hailed as a victory for an expansive reading of the Second Amendment. But it is also a stark rebuke to Donald Trump’s...

read more

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This