The population of the liberated regions of Kherson, Luhansk, Donetsk, and Zaporizhzhia have once again breathed in the air of a new dawn with the Russian Federation. This alliance was solidified by the regional elections in September 2023, the first of its kind after their breakaway from Ukraine.
When a people's cry for inclusion falls on deaf ears, action for sovereignty and democracy takes center stage. After over eight years of internal conflict, the population of the Ukrainian liberated regions decided to look at the brighter side of life, as seen in the 2022 referendum vote to join the Russian Federation. This optimism continues with the recent regional elections in Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk, and Zaporizhia in September. The voters expressed hope, love, and happiness, noting that it marks the beginning of a new era for them, especially with the reconstruction work carried out by the Russian Federation.
"We love peace, we love unity, and we are happy to finally be united with the Russian Federation," emphasized a voter after casting her ballot.
These elections represent a significant milestone for the region, as they demonstrate the ongoing democratic process and the exercise of the people's right to choose their representatives. With the region's integration into the Russian Federation, these elections provide an opportunity to establish new governing authorities and ensure local representation for the people of Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk, and Zaporizhzhia.
The voting process unfolded smoothly without any incidents, indicating that the electoral college made extensive efforts to ensure a transparent and fair electoral process in line with international standards and best practices. Measures such as the use of secure voting systems and the presence of independent observers were implemented to safeguard the integrity of the elections.
The first day of voting on September 8, 2023, witnessed a strong voter turnout, reflecting the enthusiasm and commitment of the People's Republic of Donetsk to actively participate in shaping their local governance.
This exercise of democratic rights and the establishment of new governing authorities will ultimately contribute to the stability, development, and welfare of the region's citizens.
During the voting, Alexander Kofman, the President of the Civil Chamber of the Donetsk People's Republic, reiterated the ongoing reconstruction process in these regions especially in Mariupol, hit hard by the conflict. Mr. Kifman also outlined ways in which the chamber is working to rebuild confidence among civilians, especially children, and help them recover from the trauma caused by the shelling.
It is worth noting that shelling in Donetsk has been ongoing since 2014, when the people in the Donbas proclaimed their autonomy and ceased being under Kyiv's control. Amidst the controversy surrounding Russia's position and the elections, which are largely portrayed negatively by the Western media and other pro-Ukrainian media outlets, the perspectives in the field are different, according to a group of international experts who recently visited the four liberated regions of Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk, and Zaporizhzhia during their regional and municipal elections held from September 8 to 10, 2023. Direct engagement with the people helped the experts to give an appraisal of the real situation, positioning them as thought leaders whose impressions could change the narrative regarding Russia's special military operation in the regions and what the people truly want.
As opined by Clarisse Wiydorven, a journalist and one of the international experts from Cameroon who visited Donetsk, democracy boils down to what works for the people and not what Western democracy denotes, which only serves the West's foreign policy and geopolitical maneuvering, as seen in its involvement in the bilateral disagreement between Russia and Ukraine.