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06KIEV656, UKRAINE: FOURTH ELECTION ROUNDTABLE

February 17, 2006

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06KIEV656 2006-02-17 14:33 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Kyiv
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

 

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 KIEV 000656 

SIPDIS 

SENSITIVE 

DEPARTMENT FOR EUR/UMB 

E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PGOV PHUM KDEM
SUBJECT: UKRAINE: FOURTH ELECTION ROUNDTABLE 

REF: A. KIEV 481 
     B. 05 KIEV 5135 
     C. 05 KIEV 4892 

(U) Sensitive but unclassified.  Not for Internet 
distribution.  Please handle accordingly. 

1. (SBU) Summary:  At an Ambassador-hosted roundtable on the 
March 26 Rada (Parliament) and local government elections 
February 14, NGO representatives felt that while most voters 
were aware of the shift to elections based on party lists, 
this awareness dropped off significantly in rural areas.  NGO 
representatives were concerned that voters were still making 
their decisions based on personalities as opposed to party 
platforms, a phenomenon perpetuated by vague party platforms 
and candidates' tendency to switch parties.  Participants 
thought that political parties had little control over their 
party lists, particularly in the local elections, noting 
instances where prominent figures with few connections to the 
party appeared on the list, as well as situations where 
people with suspect/criminal backgrounds appeared on the 
lists.  Also of concern were reports that positions on local 
election lists were being sold to the highest bidder and that 
local political operators were hedging their bets by placing 
their representatives on multiple lists.  NGO representatives 
noted that administrative resources were being used very 
rarely, but that there was a significant amount of dirty 
campaigning, including mudslinging and fake campaign 
materials meant to impugn opponents.  Participants noted that 
journalists were now much freer to cover the elections, but 
noted that it was very common for political parties to pay 
journalists for coverage.  Participants also noted that 
possibility of legal challenges to the elections due to 
inconsistencies in the election law.  End summary. 

2. (SBU) In preparation for the March 26 Rada (parliament) 
and local elections, Ambassador hosted the fourth in a series 
of roundtable discussions with NGO representatives February 
14, reprising a successful series of roundtables held during 
the run-up to the 2004 presidential elections. 

Voter Awareness: Making the switch to party lists 
--------------------------------------------- ---- 

3. (SBU) On the subject of voter education and the shift to 
voting by proportional representation, Inna Pidluska of the 
Europe XXI Foundation noted that, while citizens were 
well-informed in larger cities, inhabitants of small towns 
were less informed.  Pidluska cited a recent poll showing 
that up to 45% of citizens in small communities were not 
aware of the shift to proportional representation (PR) in the 
Rada election and up to 60% were not aware that local 
elections would be held by PR.  Alla Tyutyunyk from the 
Kherson Regional Charity and Health Foundation observed that 
while many people knew they would be voting for parties and 
not for individual candidates, people had not adapted their 
decision-making to this new reality, with most people making 
their choices based on personalities in the party and not on 
party platforms.  Andriy Hevko from Pora (Black Pora, the 
NGO, not to be confused with Yellow Pora, the political 
party) agreed, and noted that candidates running for 
different offices on different party lists at the local level 
only confused the situation further. 

Local lists: Confusion and subversion? 
-------------------------------------- 

4. (SBU) Pidluska from the Europe XXI Foundation commented on 
political parties' weakness at the local level, which 
encouraged candidates to "party hop."  The parties' lack of 
central control over their lists often led to candidates with 
suspicious or criminal records being inserted on the lists. 
Hevko from Pora echoed this concern, noting that one of the 
political blocs in Ternopil was headed by a known racketeer 
from the early 1990s.  (Note:  Local SDPU(o)-led Ne Tak! bloc 
chairman and mayoral candidate Vova Marynovych, we have heard 
separately, is openly known to be head of the Ternopil 
mafia). 

5. (SBU) Tetyana Lebdedva from the Independent Association of 
Broadcasters noted that individual personalities were still 
more important than party lists, and that people were being 
brought onto the lists for their local connections.  Lebedeva 
offered examples, including a case in Odesa where the leader 
of Bloc Yuliya Tymoshenko (BYuT) and likely candidate for 
governor was a member of a different party in the Rada and 
had not been a supporter of the Orange Revolution.  It was 
similar with the Our Ukraine (OU) bloc list in 
Dnipropetrovsk, where most of the candidates had no previous 
affiliation with the bloc parties.  (Note:  Oblast Council 
chief and former governor Mykola Shvets, a Kuchma-era 
mainstay who actively opposed the Orange Revolution and is on 
PORA's "black list" of politicians, is number one on OU's 
oblast council electoral list.)  This was losing OU support 
in Dnipropetrovsk, Lebedeva claimed.  In this vein, Ihor 
Popov from the Committee of Voters of Ukraine (CVU) lamented 
the fact that, while 80% of eligible voters were expected to 
vote, few people had read the electoral programs. 

Party lists: Pay to play 
------------------------ 

6. (SBU) Tyutunyk from the Kherso
n Regional Charity and 
Health Foundation commented that prominent local figures were 
inserting "their people" on a number of local party lists so 
that whoever won the election, they would be covered, making 
the use of administrative resources unnecessary.  Tyutunyk 
went on to comment that she was dumbfounded when she (a 
self-professed Orange supporter) realized that in Kherson 
there were more "decent" people on the Party of the Regions 
list than on the OU list.  Tyutunyk also related a scandal 
where a city head of the Green Party quit because all the top 
seats on their list were being sold.  Tyutunyk told how her 
NGO wanted to have three members run for the Kherson city 
council, and approached BYuT about running on their list. 
Tyutunyk alleged that BYuT demanded that they join the party, 
have their newspaper write articles praising BYuT, and pay an 
unspecified amount of money; her NGO ultimately got one 
member placed on the electoral list of Rukh (Foreign Minister 
Tarasyuk's People's Movement Party) without having to pay 
money. 

Admin resources are "so last year": Dirty campaigning is "in" 
--------------------------------------------- ---------------- 

7. (SBU) When queried about the use of administrative 
resources, particularly with Mayors or Governors working to 
exclude candidates from the elections, Popov from the CVU 
responded that these cases were very rarely seen anymore. 
Popov opined that, while conventional wisdom used to say that 
administrative resources were the best way to win elections, 
now the weapon of choice was dirty election campaigning. 
Popov noted the proliferation of questionable campaign 
materials from unknown sources aimed at discrediting 
opponents, particularly in Donetsk and Luhansk.  Popov also 
noted there were some instances of campaign activists getting 
beaten up.  Tyutyunyk from the Kherson Regional Charity and 
Health Foundation noted that, while law enforcement was not 
interfering with the campaign on any side, they also were not 
intervening to stop the ongoing slander.  Tyutyunyk also 
pointed to Kherson as a hotbed of dirty campaigning. 

8. (SBU) When asked whether voters actually believed the 
slander, Pidluska from the Europe XXI Foundation commented 
that people could generally see through the misleading 
allegations, but nevertheless were paying attention to it and 
could be influenced by it.  Marko Rachkevych from the 
Democratic Initiatives Foundation noted that public opinion 
was in danger of losing its credibility due to the number of 
fake polling companies that had shown up in Ukraine recently, 
citing a recent report on the internet-newspaper Ukrayinska 
Pravda about fictitious polling companies whose names closely 
resembled those of established polling companies.  Rachkevych 
lamented the lack of a self-regulatory body to maintain 
standards among polling agencies in Ukraine. 

Media environment: Free, but sometimes for sale 
--------------------------------------------- -- 

9. (SBU) Lebedeva from the Independent Association of 
Broadcasters noted that media had good access and could 
freely cover the elections in all regions.  However, Oksana 
Maidan from CURE lamented the blurring of the line between 
journalism and paid advertising, noting that it was very 
common for political parties to pay journalists for coverage, 
and that some newspapers would not run political articles 
unless they received payment from the political party 
involved.  Dmytro Krykun from Internews Ukraine commented 
that paid advertising helped the parties, but did not result 
in an informed electorate.  Lebedeva noted that there were 
too few committed journalists and it was too easy just to 
take money and write what you were told.  Lebedeva also noted 
the paucity of analytic coverage in the regional media, where 
journalists tended to just reprint press releases from 
political parties. 

Legal challenges to elections? 
------------------------------ 

10. (SBU) Volodymyr Steshenko from the Kharkiv Institute of 
Applied Humanitarian Research considered that challenges to 
the elections were a possibility, pointing up several 
inconsistencies in the local election law.  Steshenko opined 
that many inconsistencies in the law could be dealt with by 
electoral commissions, but that local courts needed to be 
prepared to act as the arbiter of last resort in the 
elections.  Pidluska from the Europe XXI Foundation noted 
that in this uncertain legal environment, courts could be 
used to improperly change the outcome of the elections, and 
that abuse of judicial authority for political ends was a 
possibility.  Steshenko said his institute estimated that up 
to 80% of judges might be involved in settling some type of 
election dispute, and that appeals could drag on for months. 
Steshenko emphasized the need to prepare judges for 
election-related legal challenges and outlined his 
organization's training efforts along these lines. 

11. (U) Visit Embassy Kiev's classified website: 
www.state.sgov.gov/p/eur/kiev. 
HERBST

 

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