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06KIEV957, UKRAINE: USOSCE AMBASSADOR FINLEY’S VISIT TO

March 13, 2006

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06KIEV957 2006-03-13 18:02 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 03 KIEV 000957 

SIPDIS 

E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PGOV PHUM KDEM OSCE
SUBJECT: UKRAINE: USOSCE AMBASSADOR FINLEY'S VISIT TO 
UKRAINE IN THE RUN-UP TO THE PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS 

1. (SBU) Summary:  U.S. Ambassador to the OSCE Julie Finley 
visited Kiev February 28-March 2 and met with OSCE, Central 
Election Commission (CEC), and political party 
representatives to get a better sense of how the run-up to 
the March 26 elections was proceeding.  She noted repeatedly 
that the USG was watching closely to determine how the 
elections were conducted.  Almost all interlocutors pointed 
to a vastly improved climate for the campaign in comparison 
to 2004, with the turnaround in media freedom a key factor. 
However, the OSCE's Election Observation Mission (EOM) voiced 
concern about the large shortage in personnel (some 27,000 
slots or six percent of the total) to man the polling station 
commissions (PSCs).  As a result, several PSCs are not fully 
functional; this could hamper election preparations.  The CEC 
acknowledged problems existed but stressed they were more 
logistical rather than political (e.g., blatant use of 
administrative funds to help the party in power).  Some 
opposition parties did point to cases of dirty tricks or 
harassment, but the EOM stressed these were largely isolated 
or greatly exaggerated.  The overall impression was that the 
GOU and most of the political parties were genuinely 
committed to conducting fair elections.  On a separate issue, 
the Presidential Secretariat noted problems in changing the 
OSCE mandate.  End Summary. 

ODIHR Observation Mission -- Good So Far, But... 
============================================= === 

2. (SBU) In his March 1 meeting with Ambassador Finley, 
Ambassador Lubomir Kopaj, head of the OSCE's Election 
Observation Mission (EOM) in Ukraine noted that they had 52 
long-term observers in almost all of Ukraine's oblasts and 
that thus far, the situation had been very calm.  He said 
that media freedom had improved significantly since the 2004 
presidential elections and that it was clear the GOU was 
genuinely interested in holding free and fair elections. 
Most of the allegations of violations had been grossly 
exaggerated or had not even taken place.  However, as the 
campaign heated up, he expected the appearance of dirty 
tricks and potential kompromat (compromising materials). 

3. (SBU) Kopaj said that the EOM was concerned about three 
main issues leading up to the election. 

--First was the large shortage in personnel to man the 
precinct election commissions.  The 15 parties/factions 
currently in the Rada have a right to have their 
representatives on the commissions, but since most are not 
truly national organizations, only a few have actually done 
so.  This means there are some 27,000 vacant slots, or six 
percent of the total on the PSCs.  As a result, several PSCs 
are not fully functional, which, in turn, could hamper 
election preparations.  The Central Election Commission (CEC) 
wants a law that would allow local governments to put people 
on the local commissions; however, that could disrupt the 
commissions' balance and affect their integrity.  Kopaj 
thought one possible compromise would be to have more 
representatives from the bigger parties, though he did not 
have the capacity to formally make such a recommendation. 

--The second issue was that some polling stations, 
particularly in urban areas, have  more registered voters 
than the mandated 2500 maximum, which could lead to long 
lines and a more drawn-out tabulation process. 

--Finally, it did not appear that the CEC had the ability to 
publish the election results of each polling station, which 
was important to help track any possible fraud. 

CEC, OSCE - Working on the Problems 
=================================== 

4. (SBU) Deputy Head of the CEC Mykola Melnik told Ambassador 
Finley March 2 that they were well aware of the problems 
raised by the EOM.  (Melnik said that CEC head Davidovych was 
unable to make the meeting as scheduled as he had to deal 
with an emergency at the factory that makes ballots.)  He 
contended that the problems that the CEC faced so far had 
been logistical (getting the PSCs staffed) rather than 
political (e.g., blatant use of administrative funds to help 
the party in power).  He said the political parties had been 
"irresponsible" in either not nominating enough people to 
serve on the commissions or nominating those who clearly had 
no desire to do so.  The CEC has told the parties that such 
actions endanger the political process.  Regarding large 
numbers of voters at some polling stations, Melnik said they 
have expanded voting time by three hours, from 7 a.m. to 10 
p.m., rather than 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., and by expanding the 
number of stations (though still not as many as they would 
like). 

5. (SBU) Melnik said that when fraud is reported on election 
day or thereafter, the commissions will investigate.  There 
will be police officers at every polling station to take 
reports and duty officers in the courts to deal with the 
complaints quickly.  He said he personally was not concerned 
about such problems as false protocols, which were a major 
issue last time, but rather with the ability of the local 
commissions to operate effectively. 

6. (U) Melnik had high praise for the electronic voter list 
project, implemented by the
Project Coordinator in Ukraine 
(PCU), the OSCE's field presence.  He said he had just 
completed a trip throughout Ukraine and was able to see 
firsthand how effective the program had been. 

7. (U) In a March 2 meeting, PCU head Jim Schumaker explained 
that the project, which cost approximately Euros 4.5 million 
and to which the U.S. was a major contributor, provided over 
1000 computers, 800 printers and 27 servers to the CEC to 
completely update and modernize voter lists.  The project was 
able to purge more than one million names from old lists, 
which will greatly enhance elections' transparency and avoid 
the situation in 2004, where the Kuchma administration 
created phony voter lists on election day and then falsified 
voting results based on those lists.  In addition, the PCU 
has created grassroots forums for people to meet with local 
authorities to discuss issues.  Schumaker noted that so far, 
there has been an absence of complaints regarding the 
campaign. 

The Opposition - Some Praise, Some Complaints 
============================================= 

8. (SBU) In several meetings, leading candidates and 
representatives of political parties had some complaints 
regarding the conduct of the campaign though none accused the 
GOU of trying to outright rig the elections.  Most 
acknowledged, either openly or grudgingly, that media freedom 
was far better than before.  Ambassador Finley told all party 
and GOU representatives that the USG was watching closely to 
determine how the March 26 elections were being conducted. 
She reminded them that in a democratic system, one loss was 
not forever and that no matter what happened, she urged the 
parties to continue doing the work necessary to broaden their 
support so that they would be in a better position next time. 

9. (SBU) Party of the Regions leader (and 2004 presidential 
candidate) Viktor Yanukovych noted that opposition parties 
did not have the same advantages as the party in power and 
claimed they had problems getting air time.  He even 
maintained that the Presidential Administration still sent 
instructions down to media outlets from time to time, just 
like under Kuchma.  On the other hand, he did acknowledge 
that there had been major improvements on freedom of speech. 
(Note:  Yanukovych on March 4 publicly attacked the 
Yushchenko government as preparing massive voter fraud in an 
attempt to rig the elections.) 

10. (SBU) Others, however, were far less critical.  Oligarch 
and Party of the Regions financier and Rada candidate Rinat 
Akhmetov told Ambassador Finley in a separate March 1 meeting 
that the GOU deserved credit, with the help of the OSCE, for 
creating a much better atmosphere, especially on media 
freedom, and that opposition parties had equal access to mass 
media (note: Akhmetov owns both TV stations and newspapers). 
He flatly denied any assertions that the GOU was somehow 
telling the media what to report, noting that they have often 
been very critical of President Yushchenko. 

11. (SBU) Oleksandr Turchynov, Campaign chief for  the Yuliya 
Tymoshenko Bloc (BYuT), also admitted that the campaign was 
vastly improved from those in the Kuchma era, but said the 
GOU had been "too weak" to fully prevent some abuse of 
administrative resources at the local level.  He also showed 
concrete examples of dirty tricks, done by an unknown group. 
He pointed to a professionally done flyer with a photo of 
Tymoshenko offering children to celebrate her birthday at 
McDonald's, where they would get a free hamburger.  No such 
offer existed.  Another example was of a poster with the 
bloc's heart logo which asked people to report their 
neighbors to the authorities if they did not pay their taxes. 
 He said these were clear attempts to undermine BYuT's 
campaign.  Ambassador Finley replied that unfortunately, such 
things happened in more established democracies, such as the 
U.S., and that the real issue was whether the candidate had 
any recourse to counter the bad publicity, such as by getting 
on the news or alerting people via the Internet. 

OSCE Mandate 
============ 

12. (SBU) During her February 28 meeting with First Deputy 
Chief of Staff of the Presidential Secretariat Ivan Vasyunyk, 
Ambassador Finley raised the issue of the PCU's mandate, 
which had to be renewed every six months (versus once a year 
for most other OSCE field presences) and which also did not 
allow the PCU head to comment on political developments in 
the country.  Vasyunyk replied that the mandate had been 
negotiated under Kuchma and was ratified by the Rada.  While 
the GOU is generally satisfied with the PCU's work and wants 
to increase the number of Ukrainian staffers in the OSCE 
Secretariat, it is also hesitant to do anything to change the 

SIPDIS 
mandate, at least for the time being.  Such a change would 
need to be reviewed by the Rada.  That could open it up to 
other, less helpful changes, which would only hurt the PCU's 
work. 

13. (U) Ambassador Finley cleared on this cable. 

14. (U) Visit Kiev's classified website: 
www.state.sgov.gov/p/eur/kiev. 
Gwaltney

 

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