An Illegitimate Election in Ukraine

It is unclear if even Russia will recognize the results of the vote, which Kiev and most Western leaders have condemned.

Dmitry Lovetsky/AP

Alexander Zakharchenko, a 38-year-old mining electrician, won an illegitimate election in pro-Russian separatist controlled Ukraine this weekend. The election was held to determine a leader of the Donetsk People's Republic, however, the militant separatist group is not recognized as a legitimate power by the Ukrainian government. President Petro Poroshenko refers to them primarily as a terrorist group. In addition to being carried out by an unrecognized rebel organization, the election violated a September 5th ceasefire agreement that was signed by not only Ukraine and the separatists, but also by Russia.

Though the separatists believe the election will allow them to break eastern Ukraine away from the west, and exert political control over the area, officials in Kiev will not recognize the election or Zakharchenko's reign. The Ukrainian government referred to the vote as "rogue" and believes it was encouraged by Russian officials, who have long been accused of funding and controlling separatist actions in Ukraine. Poroshenko said the election was a "farce that is being conducted under the threat of tanks and guns."

It is even unclear if Russia will recognize the results of the vote, Reuters reported. "A Russian deputy foreign minister, in an initial reaction, made no mention of formal recognition but said the newly elected leadership in eastern Ukraine had been given a mandate to negotiate with Kiev." It is extremely unlikely the western world will recognize the election. German Chancellor Angela Merkel reportedly believes it is "incomprehensible" for "official Russian voices" to recognize the vote. European Union foreign affairs leader Federica Mogherini called the election "a new obstacle on the path towards peace in Ukraine."

As for Zakharchenko, he won almost 80 percent of the vote. His campaign compared Donbass area coal deposits to United Arab Emirates oil reserves and promised lucrative stipends to pensioners. After he won, he told reporters, "Ukraine does not want peace, as it claims. Obviously it is playing a double game."

During a formal parliamentary election held by the Ukrainian government last week, 30 out of 450 parliamentary seats remained vacant, which were meant to belong to Crimean and Donbass officials. Kiev has scheduled local elections in the region for December 7, which the White House called "the only legitimate local election in eastern Ukraine."