On Nov. 2, against the backdrop of the U.S. and NATO’s provocative “Iron Sword” war games in nearby Lithuania, residents of the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics (DNR and LC) went to the polls for the first elections since declaring independence from Ukraine.
Donetsk Prime Minister Alexander Zakharchenko won 75 percent of the vote, while in Lugansk, Prime Minister Igor Plotnitsky won with 63 percent. Both incumbents’ parties won strong majorities in the Supreme Soviet. Washington, the European Union and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe all joined Ukraine’s far-right regime in denouncing the vote as “illegitimate.”
Workers World is publishing a statement issued by the revolutionary Marxist organization Union Borotba (Struggle), analyzing this important development. WW contributing editor Greg Butterfield translated the statement.
Despite continued shelling in areas of Donbass by Kiev’s armies, there was mass participation by residents of the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics in the Nov. 2 elections. All TV channels broadcast footage of the long lines at polling stations in the DNR and LC.
The activity of Donbass residents at the polls shows that, despite all the hardships of the civil war, they have remained faithful to the choice made in the May 11 referendum [for independence from Ukraine].
Despite the war and internal turmoil, despite the fact that transformations in the interests of the people have not really begun, the people’s republics remain much more attractive to the people of Donbass than the state of Ukraine, which is under the full control of the new neoliberal bureaucrats and far-right politicians.
Voter turnout in the DNR and LC contrasts vividly with the de facto boycott of the Oct. 26 elections to the Verkhovna Rada [parliament] of Ukraine by residents of the southeast regions remaining under the rule of the nationalist regime in Kiev. The power of the nationalists in Odessa and Kharkov, Dnepropetrovsk, Kherson and Nikolayev is based on fear and terror. The power of the militias and civilian institutions of the DNR and LC, by contrast, has the support of the population.
However, despite the high voter turnout, the elections in the DNR and LC revealed serious shortcomings in the political system of people’s republics. These deficiencies are caused first of all by the continuation of the war, despite the formal truce.
Some of the militia commanders objected to holding the electoral campaign under these conditions, since significant areas of the republics are under Kiev’s control, and the militia fighters — the most active part of the population — would not be able to fully take part in the elections.
As a result, the campaign did not become a public debate on the development of the people’s republics. Several political parties and individual leaders of the militia were not included on the ballot. Especially troubling was the exclusion of the Communist Party of the DNR from the race.
The elections show that the original democratic, anti-fascist and anti-oligarchic direction of the uprising in Donbass is under threat. There are major forces, and not only within the DNR and LC, that do not want the people’s republics to become an example of revolutionary anti-capitalist development and grassroots democracy. In the republics there are forces that are trying to replace the anti-oligarchic and anti-fascist tendencies of the popular uprising with archaic ideas, thus directing the energy of the masses onto a track that is safe for the old elites.
The winners of the elections will have to justify the trust which the citizens of the DNR and LC gave them in the Nov. 2 election. This means, first of all, to waste no time implementing the promised nationalizations and building of a people’s economy. Not in words but in deeds, the oligarchs and their henchmen must be removed from the decision-making process. On this depends the fate of the people’s republics, which the people showed their support for on May 11 and again on Nov. 2.
The Nov. 2 election showed that the people of Donbass believe that “another world is possible,” so all is not lost.