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06KIEV1083, UKRAINE: PRE-ELECTION SNAPSHOT: LVIV AT SECOND

March 21, 2006

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06KIEV1083 2006-03-21 09:57 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 02 KIEV 001083 

SIPDIS 

E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM
SUBJECT: UKRAINE: PRE-ELECTION SNAPSHOT: LVIV AT SECOND 
GLANCE 

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

1. (SBU) Summary:  A return visit to the western city of Lviv 
March 17-18 indicated that campaigning in city and 
surrounding areas has moved into a higher gear the final week 
before the March 26 parliamentary and local elections, as 
politicians scramble to maintain their base and win over the 
dwindling undecided voters.  Lviv's streets and airwaves were 
even more crowded with banners, flyers, streamers, pop-up 
tents, posters and political ads than in late February 
(reftel).  Yulia Tymoshenko barnstormed through Lviv and 
three towns south of Lviv March 17 amid reports her eponymous 
bloc (BYuT) is gaining on President Yushchenko's Our Ukraine; 
she reportedly plans a return visit March 24.  Rada speaker 
Volodymyr Lytvyn visited Lviv March 15 but seems in danger of 
not making it over the 3-percent threshold despite a 
well-funded campaign.  Meanwhile, campaigning for local 
races, including for mayor of Lviv, remained mired in 
mudslinging and acrimony.  End summary. 

The Rada Race: Orange and White, but sterile? 
--------------------------------------------- 

2. (SBU) Several observers of the Lviv scene told us they 
expected Our Ukraine and BYuT to win a majority of the Lviv 
oblast vote March 26, but that Our Ukraine's earlier 2-to-1 
commanding lead over BYuT had slipped (reftel).  Anatoli 
Romanyuk, director of the Center for Political Studies, and 
Andriy Pavlyshyn, editor of the Our Ukraine-friendly daily 
Lvivska Hazeta, both estimated that Our Ukraine would capture 
40% of the vote (down from 45%) while BYuT's share could rise 
to as much as 23% (up from 18%). Lviv Committee of Voters of 
Ukraine (CVU) head Roman Koshovy predicted a 40-to-20% vote 
split between Our Ukraine and BYuT locally.  Pavlyshyn, who 
anchors a live, weekly political talk show on local TV, 
predicted that Tymoshenko's BYuT would surge on election day 
to beat Our Ukraine nationwide, capturing up to 23% of the 
total vote, a view shared by other Lviv observers and pundits 
who admire Tymoshenko's oratory skills. 

3. (SBU) Tymoshenko visited the Lviv region March 17 in full 
campaign mode.  Media and eyewitness reports about the crowds 
she attracted differed markedly.  For example, the pro-BYuT 
daily Vysoki Zamok said in a page one teaser headline 
illustrated with a picture of Tymoshenko that she met with 
"nearly 200,000 people" in three of the regions largest 
cities: 30,000 in Striy, and 40,000 each in Drohobych and 
Sambir.  There was no account, however, of where she met with 
the other 90,000.  (Note: Vysoky Zamok, which is the leading 
paper in the Lviv region, is owned by Stepan Kurpil, No. 36 
on the BYuT ticket.)  In contrast, the UNIAN wire service 
reported a crowd of 10,000 in Drohobych, and an OSCE LTO who 
attended the Tymoshenko Drohobych rally told us he observed a 
lackluster crowd of about 5,000.  Said one observer with a 
wry smile:  "It appears Mr. Kurpil may have added an extra 
zero to the numbers." 

4. (SBU) Next in line to capture the local vote are the 
PORA-Party of Reforms and Order (PRP) with 5-7% and the 
Socialists with 5%.  According to Romanyuk, Rada Speaker's 
Volodymyr Lytwyn,s block will likely poll less than three 
percent in Lviv Oblast despite a concerted campaign effort 
that included a one-day visit March 15.  Romanyuk said Lytvyn 
started campaigning early and heavily in Lviv, and at one 
point was polling at about 7-8%.  However, due to an unwise 
use of campaign funds, lackluster ads and a campaign run 
largely by old-style "hacks," Lytvyn's bloc had slipped, 
Romanyuk said.  Romanyuk complained about a "lifeless and 
formulaic" campaign in which political forces engaged more in 
marketing than voter education and civil society building. 
Still, while the campaign might not be an ideal example of 
democracy in action, this time around it was "free--free from 
fear," he said. 

Colorful Spring, even before the thaw 
------------------------------------- 

5. (SBU) There were clear signs during our visit of 
stepped-up campaigning wherever people gathered, walked and 
shopped.  In the Lviv city center, in the square running the 
length of Freedom Avenue (Prospekt Svobody) and around Ivan 
Franko University, dozens of pop-up campaign tents 
representing a cross-section of political parties dotted the 
streets.  The center of Lviv and roads leading south to Stryi 
and Drohobych were festooned with tens of thousands of 
ribbons:  Our Ukraine,s orange and BYuT's white emblazoned 
with a red heart.  When asked what the joining of the two 
colors symbolized, some passersby opined it was a signal from 
voters that Yushchenko and Tymoshenko should re-unite, though 
others suspected one-upsmanship.  Many Lvivites thought 
prospects for a reunion were not high, while expressing voter 
regret and disenchantment that the two key leaders of the 
Orange Revolution remained split. 

Local/Mayoral Race getting dirty 
-------------------------------- 

6. (SBU) According to Lviv CVU head Koshovy, the main change 
in the past three weeks had been a "criminalization of the 
campaign process" at the local level.  Koshovy said he had 
received reports about seven incidents involving campaign 
workers for local electio
ns, including two fires at campaign 
offices, a beating, fist fights and one detention involving a 
Green Party worker who had been harassed and let go.  Clive 
Jordan (please protect), the OSCE/ODIHR long-term observer 
(LTO) for Lviv city and northern parts of the oblast, said he 
had not heard of these specific incidents, but did not 
discount them, since some of the people hired to plaster 
campaign posters around the city were down-on-their-luck 
types who often did a poor job and were out to make quick 
money. 

7. (SBU) Regarding Lviv's mayoral race, in which the two 
primary candidates came from competing factions of Our 
Ukraine (Anatoly Sadovoi slightly ahead of Vasyl Kuybida), 
Jordan said that the reported violence may be more related to 
competing business interests. "There,s a whole lot of money 
at stake for the mayor,s job," he said, pointing to stories 
that third-place mayoral candidate Petro Pysarchuk controlled 
a number of city markets.  (Note:  Jordan was guarded in 
talking at length about local elections because the OSCE 
mandate is to only observe the parliamentary election.) 
Thus, the battle for local office centered on who would get 
what space and business licenses, he said 

Election Administration 
----------------------- 

8. (SBU) ODIHR's LTO for southern Lviv oblast, Yale Trainer, 
said his recent visits to some 25 polling stations showed an 
overall improvement in voter lists, organization and 
staffing, in comparison to several weeks ago, adding that the 
increase in salaries from 17 to 50 hryvnyas per day for poll 
workers was a welcome added boost.  Because of the 
predominance of Ukrainian in Lviv and the surrounding region, 
Yale said there were fewer problems with double entry of 
names and virtually no Russian-Ukrainian transliteration 
problems. 

9. (SBU) In contrast, both Romanyuk and Pavlyshyn said they 
expected "chaos" on voting day because of the nearly 
meter-long ballot for the Rada, combined with other ballots 
for mayors, village councils, and raion and oblast councils. 
The multiple ballots were likely to confuse and frustrate 
voters.  "Who knows how the ballots will be filled out?" one 
local official running for a raion council asked rhetorically. 

"Checkbook journalism" alive and well? 
-------------------------------------- 

10. (SBU) With regard to press freedom, journalist Pavlyshyn 
claimed that what existed now was a false sense of freedom of 
the press. "Journalists are doing the same thing as before 
(writing kompromat, mudslinging, etc.), only getting paid for 
it," he commented.  Pavlyshyn noted that his newspaper was 
one of the few that publicized its code of ethics on its 
website and explained its policy of how to recognize which 
articles were paid-for "points of view" or public relations 
pieces.  (See www.gazeta.lviv.ua.)  Comment:  In other words, 
"check-book journalism" has not disappeared from Ukraine's 
media. 

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

 

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