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Can Zelenskyy postpone the next Ukrainian election indefinitely due to war?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Volodymyr_Zelenskyy

Zelenskyy announced his candidacy in the 2019 Ukrainian presidential election on the evening of 31 December 2018, alongside the New Year's Eve address of then-president Petro Poroshenko on the TV channel 1+1. A political outsider, he had already become one of the frontrunners in opinion polls for the election. He won the election with 73.23 percent of the vote in the second round, defeating Poroshenko. He has positioned himself as an anti-establishment and anti-corruption figure.

Ukraine is a democracy and Zelenskyy had to be elected in order to assume office. However, because Ukraine is at war and the difficulties of holding an election during wartime, I was wondering if Ukraine's legal system gives him the right to postpone the elections indefinitely even if the war was to last 50 years. Does Ukraine's legal system give that power to the president?

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    I don't think Ukrainian has foreseen the possibility of an elonged war with foreign aggressors, so to put words into its election law prior to such an unexpected, unprecedented event. The president is the supreme general/leader of the nation, will an election do any good in replacing an effective leader with an unknown during the fight for life? But an election is necessary if Zelenskyy lost his edge.
    – r13
    Aug 8 at 16:59
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    I am curious why you have selected that quote, it doesn't seem to affect the question. A more useful quote would include more information about when the next Ukrainian presidential election should be (March 2024). Aug 8 at 18:33
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    I’m voting to close this question because the next presidential election is March of 2024 which is 19 months away. It is a bit soon to be speculating on the election being postponed due to the war at this stage.
    – Joe W
    Aug 8 at 20:44
  • He already kicked all the left leaning parties out or Parliament at the begining of the conflict - our hero may just be a bit of an authoritarian, like all other politicians.
    – Kovy Jacob
    Aug 12 at 0:40

2 Answers 2

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Yes, but not without the approval of the Ukrainian Parliament. According to Article 19 of Law No. 389-VIII of 12.05.2015, the following actions are prohibited while Ukraine is in a period of martial law:

  • changing the Constitution of Ukraine ;

  • amendment of the Constitution of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea ;

  • conducting elections of the President of Ukraine, as well as elections to the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, the Verkhovna Rada of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and local self-government bodies;

  • conducting all-Ukrainian and local referenda;

  • conducting strikes, mass meetings and actions.

Therefore, as long as the state of martial law first imposed on February 24th, 2022, and later extended by Presidential decrees on March 14th, April 18th, May 17th, & August 12th - and approved by Parliament in each case - continues, presidential and parliamentary elections will be postponed.

Under article 106, clause 20 of the Constitution of Ukraine, the President may declare a state of martial law, however in accordance with article 85, clause 31, this decree must be approved by a vote in Parliament within two days. President Zelenskyy may, therefore, continue to postpone local, parliamentary, and presidential elections as long as the Verkhovna Rada continues to approve presidential decrees extending the period of martial law.

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To compliment the answer by @CDJB: Ukraine introduced martial law after the Kerch incident in November 2018, and there was speculation at that time that the then president Petro Poroshenko was going to use it as a pretext to postpone or cancel the presidential elections in the April and March of the following year.

While today these speculations are dismissed as "Russian propaganda" - e.g., Wikipedia says

The Russian government called the incident a deliberate provocation by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko ahead of the 2019 Ukrainian presidential election.

at the time they were taken somewhat seriously by the west

That Poroshenko chose to introduce martial law in response to the incident in the Kerch Strait indicates a degree of desperation on his part. His ratings ahead of presidential elections scheduled for March 31 of next year are low, according to all opinion polls. Surveys show him to be behind not just his main opponent Yulia Tymoshenko but even the maverick candidate, the comedian Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
[...]
A temporary success could still turn into a Pyrrhic victory for Poroshenko. Speculation that the president was planning to use the crisis to postpone elections have already fostered suspicion of his intentions. His Western partners are also skeptical, insisting that nothing justifies a deviation from democratic norms.

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