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06KIEV936, UKRAINE: REGIONS’ CONSULTANTS WARN DEFICIENCIES

March 10, 2006

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06KIEV936 2006-03-10 17:56 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED 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 04 KIEV 000936 

SIPDIS 

E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM
SUBJECT: UKRAINE: REGIONS' CONSULTANTS WARN DEFICIENCIES 
COULD CALL LEGITIMACY OF ELECTION INTO QUESTION 

REF: KIEV 912 

(U) Sensitive but unclassified, please handle accordingly. 
Not for internet distribution. 

1. (SBU) Summary:  Party of Regions' U.S. campaign 
consultants Paul Manafort, Phil Griffin, and Catherine Barnes 
called on DCM and poloff March 10 to share Regions' concerns 
about election organizational problems that they feared could 
call the legitimacy of the March 26 election into question. 
Manafort complained about the indifferent attitude of 
OSCE/ODIHR.  He also claimed that the identified inadequacies 
were not mere oversights, but were intentional on the part of 
those in power, specifically Yushchenko and Our Ukraine; he 
said that Regions' past experience allowed them to "see what 
was coming around the corner."  If these shortcomings were 
not fixed by March 14, the day the Rada would consider 
technical amendments to address problems, warned Manafort, 
they could call into question the integrity of the March 26 
vote.  Manafort acknowledged that the 2006 election cycle was 
considerably better than in 2004 but stressed that the U.S., 
ODIHR, and other western countries and institutions needed to 
be as supportive of the democratic process in 2006 as they 
had been in 2004, lest the impression be given that there 
were two sets of standards depending on who was in power. 
Manafort added that the people who felt that the 2004 
elections had been stolen from them -- and since he was not 
in Ukraine in 2004, he could not judge what had happened -- 
would feel that it was happening to them again.  End Summary. 

Regions concerns about voter lists, precinct committees 
--------------------------------------------- ---------- 

2. (SBU)  Manafort stated that "massive inaccuracies" in 
voter lists and the lack of formation of polling station 
committees (PSC) made it impossible for some voters to check 
the lists and seek administrative remedies.  We noted that 
Ukrainian NGOs had identified the same concerns (reftel).  In 
response to a question, Manafort suggested that the 
inadequacies were not mere oversights but were intentional on 
the part of those in power, specifically Yushchenko and Our 
Ukraine, and said that Regions' past experience allowed them 
to "see what was coming around the corner."  If these 
shortcomings were not fixed, warned Manafort, they could call 
into question the integrity of the March 26 vote, and an 
"explosion" could result.  We asked if he thought the 
problems he had cited resulted from acts of commission or 
omission.  He replied that those in power had the ability to 
correct the problems. 

3. (SBU) Regions had delivered specific information on their 
concerns to the prosecutors' office, the Central Election 
Commission, OSCE/ODIHR, and now to the Embassy.  Manafort 
complained that the ODIHR deputy head of Mission, Robert 
Cherreli, had met with a Regions delegation including an MP 
earlier March 10 dressed completely inappropriately (jeans, 
hiking boots, shirt hanging out).  He also characterized 
ODIHR's response to Regions' concerns as "indifferent; they 
didn't seem to be bothered about the allegations and did not 
plan on taking any action."  We pointed out that ODIHR's 
mandate was as an observer mission, not a lobbying 
participant, and that OSCE member-state Russia in particular 
had been highly critical of ODIHR, accusing it in the past of 
exceeding its observer mandate. 

4. (SBU) Manafort disputed this line of argument, which ODIHR 
itself had used in response to the Regions' concerns, 
claiming: "everyone knows what OSCE does in these sorts of 
situations."  Manafort warned that western countries like the 
U.S. and institutions like OSCE/ODIHR were risking the 
appearance of not pushing as hard for high standards of 
democratic process in 2006 as they had in 2004, and that 
there could be negative consequences in the eyes of people 
who saw the "West made certain demands on the one hand when 
one group was in power but reacted differently, or stayed 
silent, when another group was in power."  We made clear that 
the U.S. position on the importance of free and fair 
elections was unchanged from 2004 to 2006.  Manafort replied 
that the "perception" nevertheless was "out there." 

5. (SBU) Manafort added that the people who felt that the 
2004 elections had been stolen from them -- rightly or 
wrongly, that was how they felt -- would feel that it was 
happening to them again.  In apparent anticipation of our 
next statement, Manafort offered that he was not in Ukraine 
in 2004 and could not make a judgment of what had happened. 
What was past was past; he was concerned about the present. 

6. (SBU) Manafort's associate Catherine Barnes opened a 
folder with documents she said supported the Regions' 
complaints.  The most specific example cited was a Luhansk 
precinct (Oktyabr district) in which 10,000 eligible voters 
were supposedly missing from the list, including entire 
apartment blocks; 16,000 were listed incorrectly, mainly due 
to mistakes in translating from Russian into Ukrainian. 
Barnes said that the possible remedy in the works was a 
series of technical amendments the parliament (Rada) could 
pass March 14 to address the problems.  There was consensus 
among Rada factions about certain corrections, but 
disagreement on others. &#x0
00A; 
7. (SBU) Manafort claimed that CEC Chair Davydovych supported 
all the amendments under consideration and had characterized 
the condition of the voters' lists as being worse than in 
2004.  In contrast, according to Manafort, President 
Yushchenko's Our Ukraine representative had rejected a 
mechanism to allow voters recourse on election day to have 
the PSC add their names, vowing that Yushchenko would veto 
it, either with a direct veto or fail to sign the 
legislation, which would have the same effect, since the 
election would be less than two weeks away after the March 14 
vote.  He also said that, except for Our Ukraine, there was 
broad agreement among all political forces including 
Tymoshenko's Bloc that the amendments were needed.  We 
observed in reply that in the 2004 election, a district court 
or the territorial election commission could add someone to 
the voter list, but not the PSC itself.  Our understanding of 
the proposed legislative fix under consideration in the Rada 
was that it would allow a local court to authorize same-day 
additions to the voter list, not PSCs. 

8. (SBU) Manafort suggested that on March 14, two sets of 
amendments could be put to a vote in the Rada, one with 
consensus support, and the other including fixes supported by 
Regions and other parties, "including some orange parties," 
but likely to be rejected by Yushchenko/Our Ukraine.  This 
rejection could cause a "major problem" for perceptions of 
the elections' legitimacy.  Even though "it would not change 
the result, it could change the magnitude." 

9. (SBU) Catherine Barnes, Project Manager for the "Ukraine 
Election Integrity Project," a Manafort sub-project to train 
Regions' poll watchers in the standards of the code of 
conduct adopted by the Party for the 2006 election cycle, 
briefly mentioned her efforts, which have trained over 1200 
Regions' members.  The materials she handed to the embassy 
about the integrity issues brief notes that while Regions 
expects to win handily, it "has serious concerns about the 
political will of the current government to conduct free and 
fair elections, concerns that are increasingly shared by the 
CEC and other political parties in the Verkhovna Rada." 

10. (SBU) We noted the great differences between the 2006 and 
2004 election cycles.  On the streets of Zaporizhzhya, there 
were nearly a dozen political party tents representing the 
entire political spectrum lined up right next to each other, 
without incident or problem; on the same street in 2004, only 
one color was allowed to be seen.  Manafort, Griffin, and 
Barnes nodded in agreement, with Manafort adding: "and that's 
why we have to ensure this opportunity to cement gains made 
isn't lost." 

11.  (SBU) DCM raised the case of Black Sea TV, a Tymoshenko 
bloc-affiliated station which had been subject to a court 
ruling to shut it down, based on a petition from a local 
Party of Regions branch citing a clause in the election law 
universally condemned by free media advocates.  Manafort said 
that the action had not come at the request of the national 
Party of Regions, claimed that the petitioning party was not 
a local Regions branch per se but were supporters of 
Yanukovych, and suggested that in fact Yushchenko-affiliated 
forces had inspired the shut down action in a "Black PR" 
effort to besmirch Party of Regions' reputation.  DCM asked 
if Yanukovych had or planned to distance himself from these 
actions.  Manafort replied that this was deemed unnecessary, 
because "the courts would take care of this." 

12. (SBU) We also raised the March 9 statement of Regions' 
Campaign Chief Kushnariov, who had attacked US policy towards 
Ukraine, accused it of meddling in the election process by 
passing the repeal Jackson-Vanik amendment, granting Market 
Economy Status, and signing a bilateral WTO accession 
agreement to keep in power an "orange" government willing to 
"take instructions" from across the Atlantic.  Kusnariov's 
statement was posted on the Regions' website.  Manafort said 
that he would talk to Kushnariov, who had not mentioned it to 
him in their daily morning meeting; the statement was in 
Russian, but had not been posted on the English version of 
the site, Manafort added. 

13. (U) Note: In comments to the media in Uzhhorod March 9 
picked up by the UNIAN wire service, Ambassador underscored 
concerns over the voters' lists and sufficient staffing of 
precinct commissions. 

Other views 
----------- 
14. (SBU) Our Ukraine's Anton Klymenko held a press 
conference March 10 alleging that Regions, not Our Ukraine, 
was involved in voter list manipulation in eastern Ukraine, 
and that the "new" voter lists for some precincts in Donetsk 
which had stripped off many "dead souls" on the 2004 rolls 
had been replaced by the voter lists used in 2004, when fraud 
in the East was prevalent.  Yarema Bachinsky, who runs a 
USAID-funded election-related education project, said that at 
this point there is no way to confirm the mutual accusations, 
which echo the charges and counter charges made in the 2004 
election cycle.  Since the Central Election Commission has 
not officially indicated how many PSCs are not fully 
functional, it is difficult to assess the extent of concerns 
about voter lack of access to a mechanism to check and 
possibly correct their names. 

15.  (SBU) This perspective was echoed by ODIHR's Political 
analyst Beata Martin-Rozumilowicz, who told us that Regions, 
NeTak and Communists are making an issue of the 
transliteration of names, alleging that either their voters 
won't be able to vote or there is a possibility of double 
listing/voting.  ODIHR doesn't have any way of verifying the 
lack of access to non-functional PSCs, though they cited a 
report that the CEC deputy Chair told the Rada in 
mid-February that 7000 PSCs lacked enough commissioners to 
function.  CEC members are supposed to go out to the 
provinces over the weekend of March 11-12 to assess the 
current state of readiness.   Regarding the Rada 
consideration of amendments, Martin-Rozumilowicz added that 
the CEC has proposed one set of technical amendments, and the 
Party of Regions has proposed its own. 

16. (SBU) Note: Following is the original text of memo handed 
to DCM only at the conclusion of the meeting.  The 
consultants did not voice the appeal in the final paragraph 
preceding the note. 

Begin text: 

MEMORANDUM 

To:   Sheila Gwaltny, Deputy Chief of Mission, US Embassy in 
Ukraine 
From: Paul Manafort, Davis Manafort 
Re:   Meeting with OSCE-ODIHR 
Date: 10 March 2006 

This morning, there was a meeting between the Party of 
Regions and OSCE-ODIHR to discuss the party's grave concerns 
about massive inaccuracies in the Voters' List and the 
problems in the fo
rmation and functioning of PECs which makes 
is impossible for voters in some areas to check the Voters' 
List and seek administrative remedies. 

These meeting was not positively assessed by the Party of 
Regions, which interpreted the OSCE-ODIRH response as 
indifferent. 

During the meeting, POR representatives made a presentation 
on the massive problems with the Voters' List that they have 
identified in there core regions in the South and East and 
provided extensive documentation on the magnitude of these 
problems. In once district in Lugansk, for example, 10,000 
eligible voters are missing from the list and 16,000 are 
entered incorrectly. They also indicated that some 7,000 
precinct election commissions have yet to be properly formed, 
which impedes the ability to check and correct the lists as 
envisioned by the law. 

POR sees these issues as potentially leading to the complete 
unraveling of elections in Ukraine if not dealt with before 
Election Day. It is working in consultation with other 
political parties in the Verhovna Rada and with the Chairman 
of the CEC to propose a series of technical amendments to the 
parliamentary election law to address these problems. 

These include steps to ensure the proper functioning of PECs, 
reducing the quorum required for PECs to make decisions, and 
providing for the addition of eligible voters to the Voters' 
List at the polling stations on Election Day. There is broad 
consensus on the problems and on the technical remedies. The 
main hurdle to adoption of these technical amendments is the 
party of power, Our Ukraine. 

During the meeting with OSCE-ODIHR, the severity of the 
problems was established and documented. They indicated that 
there is a multi-party process underway in parliament to 
provide technical solutions was elaborated upon and that the 
key amendment, additions to the Voters' List on Election Day 
is being opposed by Our Ukraine. 

POR asked for assistance from OSCE-ODIHR in urging the 
Government to join with other political parties to support 
the technical amendments to the law in order to avert a 
disaster on Election Day. These technical amendments must be 
adopted at the Verhovna Rada session that begins on 14 March 
and the President must immediately sign the amendments into 
law to ensure their implementation. 

OSCE-ODHIR indicated that it was aware of the problems and 
appreciated the documentation provided by POR. It promised to 
look into the problems and indicated that its long term 
observers were already in contact with POR representatives in 
the regions. It indicated, OSCE-ODIHR indicated however that 
as an observer mission that it cannot intercede in the 
political process. 

PbR impressions of the meeting where that OSCE-ODIHR, while 
cognizant of the problems and increasingly willing to 
investigate and report on them, appears to have no political 
will to prevent the impending disaster by encouraging the 
President to take the necessary and broadly supported steps 
to fix the problems that his Administration created. 

In order to stop this ticking time bomb, the intervention of 
the international community is needed.  Without the 
leadership of the United States, it would appear that the 
time bomb is set to explode. 

Note: The meeting was attended by Elena Lukash, POR 
representative on the CEC and Victor Slauta, an MP 
representing POR and who serves on the parliamentary working 
group considering technical amendments to the parliamentary 
election law attended as did Catherine Barnes, election 
integrity advisor for Davis Manafort. 

OSCE-ODIHR was represented by the Deputy Head of Mission, 
Roberto Cherreli, the elections advisor Kamel Ivanov, and the 
legal advisor Hans Birchler. The Deputy Head of Mission 
showed up in casual attire (jeans, hiking boots, shirt 
hanging out), to meet a member of parliament, which suggests 
the seriousness with which the meeting was taken. 

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

 

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