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06KIEV1108, UKRAINE: POSSIBLE ELECTION DAY AND POST-ELECTION

March 22, 2006

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06KIEV1108 2006-03-22 15:54 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Kyiv
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

 

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 KIEV 001108 

SIPDIS 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/22/2016 
TAGS: PGOV PINR SOCI
SUBJECT: UKRAINE: POSSIBLE ELECTION DAY AND POST-ELECTION 
DAY SCENARIOS 

Classified By: Ambassador for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d). 

Summary 
------- 

1. (C) With Ukraine's pivotal March 26 parliamentary (and 
local) election day drawing closer, claims by all sides 
continue that their opponents are abusing or plan to abuse 
administrative resources to influence election results at 
various levels.  NGOs and international election observation 
missions have told us that problems remain with voter lists 
and polling station commissions; however, contrary to most 
opposition claims, these problems were scattered nationwide 
-- and not limited to opposition strongholds in the east and 
south.  Moreover, our interlocutors noted that the problems 
were slowly getting resolved.  Our contacts had no evidence 
to suggest that Yushchenko supporters were planning to void 
the results at polling stations in opposition-friendly 
regions.  Two NGOs related that they had evidence that the 
opposition Ne Tak Bloc and the radical Progressive Socialist 
Party (PSP) were planning to dump busloads of supporters at 
polling stations in an attempt to force them to shut down. 
Ne Tak and PSP supporters were also reportedly preparing to 
put up a tent city in Independence Square and to file 
thousands of post-election nuisance lawsuits in an attempt to 
void the results of as many polling stations as possible. 
President Yushchenko's Our Ukraine bloc alleged that the 
Party of Regions, the likely plurality winner in Sunday's 
elections, would orchestrate factory strikes and mine 
shutdowns in eastern Ukraine to force Our Ukraine to form a 
majority parliamentary coalition with Regions.  End summary. 

Abuse of Administrative Resources... 
------------------------------------ 

2. (SBU) With election day (March 26) drawing nearer, 
opposition political parties particularly are becoming 
increasingly vocal in protesting what they say are the 
Yushchenko administration's abuse of administrative resources 
in the election campaign (ref A).  The shrillest voices are 
those of the Ne Tak Bloc (a melange of Kuchma-crony parties 
led by former President Leonid Kravchuk), the leftist 
Progressive Socialist Party (PSP) (led by the bombastic 
Natalya Vitrenko), and, to a lesser and lower-decibel extent, 
ex-Kuchma PM Yanukovych's Party of Regions (ref B). 

...Charges and Reality 
---------------------- 

3. (C) Throughout the steady stream of charges and 
counter-charges, we have checked in with the leaders of key 
NGOs and international election observation missions, 
including the local heads of OSCE/ODIHR and European Network 
of Election Monitoring Organizations (ENEMO), to review the 
main charges and separate fact from fiction.  Here is what we 
found: 

-- Accusation:  The Yushchenko team is deliberately altering 
voter lists in opposition strongholds, especially in eastern 
and southern Ukraine, to disenfranchise opposition supporters. 

-- Findings:  Our NGO and observer mission contacts, 
including the head of the non-partisan Committee of Voters of 
Ukraine, Ihor Popov, have described the voter lists as 
generally being in poor shape (Ref C).  Popov noted, for 
example, that CVU research indicated that as many as 50 
percent of voter names were misspelled on current voter 
lists.  Moreover, most voters were apathetic, not checking 
their names on the voter list.  Popov stressed, though, that 
this was a nationwide problem, not one limited to only areas 
where opposition support was strong.  ENEMO Chief Peter 
Novatny added that the voter list problems were the result of 
mismanagement and disorganization, not a central government 
effort to influence the vote -- a point that Popov also 
separately seconded.  Our contacts also said that polling 
station workers generally were working hard to help people 
fix spelling mistakes (ref A). 

-- Accusation:  The government is deliberately hampering the 
work of polling station commissions in opposition 
strongholds, in some cases preventing the commissions from 
meeting. 

-- Findings:  Our interlocutors all acknowledged that the 
problem of non-functioning polling stations was serious, but 
one that had been scattered nationwide -- not centered in a 
particular region.  There was no "east-west" divide; the 
suggestion that polling station commissions were functioning 
in the pro-government west and not functioning in the east 
was fiction.  Moreover, our contacts stressed, the problem 
was being actively addressed by the government.  President 
Yushchenko signed legislation on March 17 that, among other 
things, expanded the number of people who could work on a 
polling station commissions and boosted their compensation. 
As of March 20, the Central Election Commission reported that 
only 96 (mostly in Kirovohrad) of Ukraine's roughly 33,000 
polling stations were still not functioning (ref D).  (Note: 
Polling station staffing problems were initially caused by 
the failure of smaller parties to provide representatives to 
polling station commissions.) 

-- Accusation:  The Yushchenko administration has se cretly 
printed extra ballots that its supporters will use to create 
provocations in polling stations where opposition parties are 
expected to do well.  Yushchenko supporters will "stuff" 
ballot boxes in these polling stations in an attempt to void 
the results. 

-- Findings:  None of our contacts ha
s seen any evidence to 
back up this claim (which was presented to the media at a 
March 20 Ne Tak Bloc press conference).  OSCE/ODIHR 
Ambassador Lubomir Kopaj told us that his mission had 
investigated a number of Ne Tak complaints; he described most 
as "vague, exaggerations or completely false" (ref A). 

What Sore Losers May Do: Election Day... 
---------------------------------------- 

4. (SBU) The head of the Europe XXI Century Foundation, Inna 
Pidluska, and CVU spokesman Oleksandr Chernenko told us March 
22 that they had indications that the Ne Tak Bloc and PSP 
were planning widespread election-day provocations. 
Apparently panicked by internal polls indicating that they 
were not likely to get the required 3% of the vote needed for 
representation in the next Rada, the two parties were 
allegedly planning to have supporters converge on select 
polling stations in buses, in a deliberate attempt to 
overcrowd the facilities and force the stations to shut down. 
 Our contacts noted that, even if this tactic did not shut 
down polling stations, it would exacerbate the expected long 
lines and long waits facing voters on Sunday. 

...And Afterward 
---------------- 

5. (SBU) Our interlocutors also asserted that Ne Tak Bloc and 
Vitrenko supporters were, with financing from Party of 
Regions MP Ihor Shkirya, planning to set up a large tent city 
in Independence Square to "protest" the conduct of the 
elections.  Our CVU contacts confirmed that they expected 
lawyers from the Ne Tak Bloc to file thousands of nuisance 
lawsuits in the days following the election, attempting to 
contest the results from as many polling stations as possible 
and generally turn the post-election situation into, as the 
CVU's Chernenko put it, "a complete mess." 

What the First Place Finisher May Do 
------------------------------------ 

6. (SBU) Our Ukraine alleged on March 22 that the 
organization likely to garner the most votes election day, 
the Party of Regions, was also planning large-scale protests 
in the wake of the elections.  Prime Minister Yekhanurov, in 
a press release, asserted that Regions would orchestrate 
strikes at Donbas coal mines and factories to pressure Our 
Ukraine into forming a governing coalition with Regions.  Our 
NGO contacts seconded Yekhanurov's view that Regions might 
attempt to create unrest in places around the country in the 
wake of the elections.  Inna Pidluska noted that the 
situation in the east, in particular, was extremely tense; 
while stumping in eastern and southern Ukraine, Regions MPs 
were coarsely referring to Yushchenko's government as "those 
Orange bastards." 

Comment 
------- 

7. (C) Despite the voter list problems and the delay in 
getting some polling stations functioning, reputable NGOs and 
international election observation groups have underscored to 
us that this has been the freest and fairest election 
campaign in Ukraine's post-independence history.  In fact, 
several NGOs have argued that many of the campaign's 
organizational glitches can be blamed on the Yushchenko 
administration's reluctance to intervene to fix problems lest 
it be accused of abusing its administrative powers.  Most of 
the bellyaching about alleged Yushchenko administration 
administrative resource abuse has come from parties with 
obvious political motivations and a history of abuse when 
they controlled the admin resources. 
Herbst

 

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