Zelensky’s Term of Office as President of Ukraine Expires

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The presidential election was to be held on 31 March, but the country is under martial law. The Ukrainian constitution does not explicitly prohibit holding elections of the head of state in such circumstances, but the prohibition is contained in the law on the legal status of martial law. Martial law in Ukraine was introduced at the end of February 2022 with the beginning of the Russian military operation and is extended every three months. Last time it happened on 9 May, when Zelensky signed the relevant bill of the Verkhovna Rada. Thus, martial law in Ukraine is in effect until 11 August 2024. In October 2023, Zelensky said in an interview with Romanian TV channel Digi24 that he does not intend to seek a second term if presidential elections are held after the end of hostilities. In early November, Zelensky expressed his opinion that at a time when Ukraine is in a state of conflict, elections in the country would be misplaced. Later that month, the leaders of all Verkhovna Rada factions signed a declaration against holding elections before the end of hostilities and within six months of the lifting of martial law. In early 2024, Zelensky said that he would hold elections “tomorrow” if he could, but this would require “a change in circumstances and the law”. In his opinion, it is rather difficult to hold elections in the conditions of hostilities so that they would be legitimate and recognized by the world. What they said about Zelensky’s legitimacy in Ukraine and Russia Zelenskyy will act president until the new Ukrainian president takes office, Verkhovna Rada speaker Ruslan Stefanchuk said in February, citing Article 108 of the country’s Constitution. Zelensky himself called the talk about his legitimacy after 20 May Russia’s “narrative”. “It’s a bad idea. I construe it as a treachery,” he said. Ten days before Zelensky’s term in office expired, Ukrainian Justice Minister Denys Maliuska said in an interview with the BBC Ukrainian Service that the president will not lose his legitimacy after 20 May. The head of the Justice Ministry repeated the thesis of the Verkhovna Rada speaker that the powers of the incumbent head of state last until the next one is elected. Ukrainian opposition believes that the government representatives should have asked the Constitutional Court for clarifications, but there was no such request from parliament or the president. Russian President Vladimir Putin said that the Constitutional Court and “the entire political system” of Ukraine should assess Zelensky’s legitimacy. The country’s basic law “has all sorts of options”, the Russian leader pointed out. He emphasized that for Russia, Zelensky’s legitimacy “certainly matters” in terms of the possible signing of the documents. “Because if it comes to signing any documents, of course, we must sign documents with legitimate authorities. This is an obvious fact,” Putin explained. In early May, the Russian Interior Ministry put Volodymyr Zelensky on a wanted list. Russian politicians and political analysts regarded this as a sign that Moscow does not consider Zelensky a legitimate head, which makes negotiations with him impossible.