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06KIEV1154, UKRAINE: MARCH 26 PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS — CAN

March 24, 2006

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06KIEV1154 2006-03-24 14:24 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 04 KIEV 001154 

SIPDIS 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/24/2016 
TAGS: PREL PGOV ETRD
SUBJECT: UKRAINE:  MARCH 26 PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS -- CAN 
THE ORANGE PICK ITSELF BACK OFF THE GROUND? 

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

1. (C) Summary:  The March 26 parliamentary elections are 
lining up to be judged free and fair, despite flaws.  The 
campaign was marred by none (or very, very few) of the Kuchma 
government behavior that seriously eroded confidence in how 
the fall 2004 presidential elections would be conducted. 
Administrative problems, such as chronically inaccurate voter 
lists and scattered polling station commission inadequacies, 
will blemish election day, but should not subvert the overall 
political will of the Ukrainian electorate.  Election day 
provocations and post-election day legal battles may also 
complicate the Central Election Commission's task of tallying 
the vote, but no credible observers have suggested that these 
obstacles cannot be overcome.  Concurrent local elections may 
be where the most problems occur. 

2. (C) We predict a vote outcome of over 30 percent for 
ex-Kuchma PM Yanukovych's Regions Party and 15-20 percent 
each for President Yushchenko's Our Ukraine bloc and 
ex-Orange PM Tymoshenko's eponymous bloc (BYuT).  The 
turn-out for second- and third-tier parties -- Socialists, 
Communists, Speaker Lytvyn's bloc and others representing a 
very wide political spectrum -- will be an important as they 
may play a king-making role in the all-important Rada 
majority coalition talks that will consume the first days and 
possibly weeks of the new Rada.  A re-alliance of the major 
forces of the Orange Revolution -- Yushchenko, Tymoshenko and 
Socialist Moroz -- is one of the two most likely outcomes.  A 
Yushchenko-Yanukovych coalition is the other.  A 
Yanukovych-Tymoshenko coalition can not be excluded.  An 
anti-Orange coalition of Blue, Red and other elements, if the 
voters make that possible Sunday, would be the worst result 
for Ukraine's Euro-Atlantic prospects; it is the least 
possible coalition outcome.  We should be fully prepared to 
work with whatever coalition emerges from the coming weeks' 
political haymaking.  If no majority can be formed, we may be 
looking at new elections this summer.  End summary. 

The Process 
----------- 

3. (C) The March 26 Rada (parliamentary) and local elections 
offer the Ukrainian people the chance to freely express their 
political views and are an opportunity for the post-Orange 
Revolution government led by President Viktor Yushchenko to 
make manifest its democratic bona fides.  From what we have 
seen, both of these opportunities will be fully realized as 
the election as a whole will be judged free and fair, despite 
problems.  The campaign, in sharp contrast to the year-long 
lead-up to the fall 2004 presidential election here, has been 
Ukraine's freest and fairest in years.  All sides have been 
able to compete for voter loyalty without hindrance.  Parties 
and blocs of parties have been able to travel and promote 
their product freely.  The Yushchenko government, unlike its 
Kuchma-led predecessor, issued no "or else" guidance to media 
outlets, which in turn displayed much less bias than in the 
past.  Analysis suggests media ownership still played a role 
in political coverage, with the little watched or read 
state-owned media favoring President Yushchenko's Our Ukraine 
bloc and privately-owed media hewing more closely to their 
bosses' preferences.  Still, even in these cases, the 
reportage was much more balanced than in 2004. 

4. (C) Election day itself will be messy, but democratic. 
The Yushchenko government has not proven itself efficient in 
many endeavors, and the administration of this election is no 
exception.  Voter lists are inaccurate; polling station 
commissions have not all opened on time; and several 
revisions to the electoral law over the past year, including 
as late as March 17, have no doubt sowed confusion.  That 
said, the GOU is not solely to blame for these ills.  Voter 
lists have long been a problem.  Many polling station 
commissions (PSCs) lacked a quorum because smaller parties 
entitled to seats did not provide the necessary bodies.  The 
independent Rada, often under the control of shifting, 
anti-government, situational majorities, has not been a tool 
of the Presidency.  Nor did the Rada have its own act 
together; democracy, difficult anywhere, remains a somewhat 
new phenomenon here.  The procedural problems, although real 
and unfortunate, should not be so great as to suggest the 
overall vote was flawed.  In another major difference from 
2004, there is no evidence (allegations, yes; evidence, no) 
that the central government has set out to manipulate these 
weakness or any others to skew the outcome.  The vote count 
of the local and regional elections may see more problems 
than the national parliamentary returns, especially if 
observers do not manage to stay in place in the long process 
that will likely follow the already long process of tallying 
the national vote. 

5. (C) Sunday's vote may also be marred by heightened 
political passions and intentional provocations that could 
lead to ugly, even violent scenes in places.  Most of the 
parties and blocs, whether with or without much hope of 
entering the Rada over the three-percent threshold, have 
engaged in a vehement and vociferous political fight.  The 
September 2005 split between erstwhile allies Yushchenk
o and 
ex-Orange PM Yuliya Tymoshenko has been getting deeper and 
wider, despite talk (dreams?) of a post-election re-formation 
of the "Maidan team" (shorthand for the political forces that 
joined on Kiev's Independence Square to resist the 
Kuchma-Yanukovych efforts of 2004 to "win" the presidential 
election by hook or by crook).  When not spitting on each 
other, many Our Ukraine and Tymoshenko bloc (BYuT) 
representatives have spared little energy in attacking their 
"Blue" opponent, Yanukovych's Party of Regions (again, 
despite behind the scenes feelers of possible post-election 
coalescing). 

6. (C) Meanwhile, the lesser parties (Socialists, Communists, 
Speaker Lytvvn's bloc, Kuchma-crony party SDPU(o), radical 
Progressive Socialist Vitrenko, a progressive PRP-PORA bloc, 
and the independent Orange rightist party of Kostenko) have 
in many cases been busy spewing their own venom in this 
largely negative campaign.  It is not at all out of the 
question that some groups, with little to no hope of entering 
parliament and wanting nothing more than to blacken the 
Yushchenko team's eye (and sully the Orange Revolution that 
deposed them), will incite actions that could mar the vote. 
Violence or purposefully improper electoral acts at a polling 
station could cause that PSC's vote to be disqualified. 
Nuisance lawsuits over some of the procedural problems noted 
above could tie up final elections results for some time. 
Luckily, tens of thousands of election monitors (both 
international and more importantly domestic, the latter 
including media reps, party representatives and, for the 
first time, non-partisan domestic NGO observers) will be 
present at the more than 34,000 PSCs that dot the country. 

The Results 
----------- 

7. (C) Polls over the last several months have consistently 
pointed to an electoral result that will give a Rada 
plurality (of about 30 percent) to Yanukovych and his eastern 
Ukraine-based Party of Regions.  While such a result does 
indicate a remarkable amount of staying power for the most 
visible loser of the Orange Revolution, it does not represent 
some kind of dramatic reversal of Ukrainian public opinion. 
In the December 2004 presidential revote, deemed acceptably 
free and fair, Yanukovych received 44 percent in the two-way 
race; Yushchenko received 52 percent (the remainder were 
spoiled ballots or "against all" votes).  If you aggregate 
the latest poll findings into roughly Blue and Orange camps, 
Blue (Regions, Communists, Lytvyn's bloc, Vitrenko, Ne Tak) 
garners 42 percent support, while Orange (Our Ukraine, 
Tymoshenko, Socialist, PORA-PRP) takes 49 percent, among 
likely voters.  The nine-percent undecided vote, according to 
some analysis, were mostly Orange supporters in 2004, but 
even if the undecideds split three ways into Orange, Blue and 
abstention, that puts the totals at almost exactly the 
December 2004 numbers. 

8. (C) Barring major disruptions to the vote, the outcome 
should give roughly 30-plus percent of the vote to Regions, 
15-20 percent each to Our Ukraine and Tymoshenko blocs, and 
5-10 percent to the Socialists.  Those seem to be the only 
sure bets to overcome the 3-percent threshold into the Rada. 
Communists and Lytyvn's bloc seem likely to receive just over 
3 percent, while the SDPU(o)-led Ne Tak, progressive 
PORA-PRP, radical Vitrenko-led and rightist Kostenko-Plyushch 
blocs have been hovering right at or just below 3 percent. 
Perhaps more important even than an extra one or two percent 
of the vote would be to any of the major parties/blocs would 
be the entry into the Rada of any of these lesser groups that 
might coalesce with one side or the other in majority 
coalition talks that will dominate the first days (weeks?) of 
the new Rada.  For example, a PORA-PRP faction in the Rada, 
with 3 percent of the seats (14) would likely add to 
Yushchenko's coalition potential, whereas if PORA-PRP were to 
receive, say, 2.9 percent of the vote and not enter the Rada, 
that percentage in effect gets divided up, proportionally, 
among the parties/blocs that do get in (i.e., adding less 
than 3 percentage points to Orange forces). 

9. (SBU) If only the top six parties/blocs get into the Rada, 
the seats will be roughly divided up in one of the following 
two ways: 

(If Orange forces do relatively well) 
------------------------------------- 
Regions (30% of the vote)      154 
Our Ukraine (20%)              103 
Tymoshenko (20%)               103 
Socialists (7.5%)               38 
Communists (5%)                 26 
Lytvyn (5%)                     26 
Parties not reaching 3% (12.5%)  0 
---------------------------------- 
Total (100%)                   450 

or 

(if Regions does relatively well) 
---------------------------------- 
Regions (35% of the vote)      180 
Our Ukraine (17.5%)             90 
Tymoshenko (17.5%)              90 
Socialists (7.5%)               38 
Communists (5%)                 26 
Lytvyn (5%)                     26 
Parties not reaching 3% (12.5%)  0 
---------------------------------- 
Total (100%)                   450 

Such a result would represent a huge boost in Rada seats for 
"Blue" Regions (currently 60), but also an improvement for 
Orange forces (currently around 150).  Parties that will have 
dropped dramatically or disappeared altogether from the Rada 
include the Communists (currently 56), SDPU(o) (19), 
unaffiliated deputies (31) and a host of other assorted, 
mostly anti-Orange or ambivalent leftover factions from the 
Kuchma era. 

What the results will mean 
-------------------------- 

10. (C) Assuming that the elections proceed with minimal 
hiccups and that post-election law suits by bitter losing 
parties do not delay final results too long, we can expect to 
get to the real business of the elections as soon as the 
polls close:  forging a Rada majority coalition and forming a 
new government.  As reported reftel, constitutional reforms 
that took effect January 1 require that a majority in the new 
Rada select a new Prime Minister, who will in turn take the 
lead on forming a new Cabinet (with the prominent exception 
of Defense and Foreign Ministers, Security Service (SBU) 
chief, and Prosecutor General).  Based on the above estimates 
of Rada seat allocation, various coalition permutations are 
quite possible, but the leading likelihood remains a 
pro-reform re-alliance of the Orange 
Yushchenko-Tymoshenko-Socialist team.  Polling shows a 
re-formed Orange alliance to be the most popular among 
voters, 34 percent, as compared to 21 percent for a 
Region-Communist-Lytvyn arrangement and only 6 percent for an 
Our Ukraine-Regions marriage. 

11. (C) Despite continued mutual personal vitriol at various 
levels of the Yushchenko and Tymoshenko organizations, talks 
continue about a coalition deal.  Foreign Minister Tarasyuk 
confirmed to Ambassador March 24 that the sides had almost &#x00
0A;reached agreement the day before, when Tymoshenko decided to 
wait until 10 pm election day to ink the deal (septel). 
Tymoshenko foreign policy adviser Hryhoriy Nemyrya confirmed 
to DCM March 24 that the sides were talking, but said no deal 
would be closed until Tymoshenko had an idea as to how she 
did at the polls Sunday.  Such an outcome would bode best for 
Ukraine's pace of Euro-Atlantic integration, though it would 
potentially revisit clashing economic philosophies on display 
in 2005. 

12. (C) Yushchenko could find it easier, even if distasteful 
and perhaps a sharp blow to his own popularity, to join 
parliamentary forces with Party of Regions leader Yanukovych, 
the once-reviled candidate of the Kuchma camp in the 2004 
presidential elections; easier because Yanukovych is more 
predictable than the "fiery" Tymoshenko, and also because 
only two blocs would be needed to form the majority.  Talks 
between the sides have been intermittent, with many a public 
statement by the two sides' representatives denying the 
possibility of such an alliance (perhaps with an eye on the 
low popularity of such a deal).  At the very least, the 
threat of a coalition with Yanukovych is something Yushchenko 
can brandish in his talks with Tymoshenko.  A Yushchenko deal 
with Regions would bring in a government with which we could 
work, but which might slow-track some Euro-Atlantic vectors. 

13. (C) One key factor in determining whether Yushchenko 
partners with Yanukovych or Tymoshenko will be will be the 
relative showing of Our Ukraine and BYuT.  In the 
negotiations, the two parties appear to have agreed that the 
side that does better in the elections will get to choose the 
PM.  If Our Ukraine finishes ahead of BYuT, the odds on 
Tymoshenko demanding the PM slot considerably diminish.  This 
should make it easier for Yushchenko to accept a coalition 
with BYuT. 
14. (C) The least likely pairing among this threesome would 
be Tymoshenko and Yanukovych.  Overcoming mutual distrust and 
personal distaste would be very difficult.  However, were 
both unable to reach a deal with Yushchenko and company, they 
would be left to consider their mutual interests in regaining 
influence over the government (whatever their conflicting 
motivations and policy orientation).  Of the three major 
likelihoods, such an outcome would be worst for U.S. 
interests, as the Yushchenko team's pro-reform, pro-West 
policies would be seriously derailed.  Even if macroeconomic 
policies did not suffer too much, the prospects of 
market-oriented reform could be dimmer.  Moreover, 
significantly increased corruption would seriously affect 
their impact.  NATO membership would lose even lip service 
support, while EU membership might remain a stated goal, but 
would be less vigorously pursued. 

15. (C) Two other coalition possibilities are worth 
mentioning.  If some past opinion polls turn out to be 
accurate, there is a potential majority coalition that would 
involve Regions, but neither Yushchenko nor Tymoshenko's 
blocs.  While unlikely, the March vote could result in a 
majority of Rada seats going to some combination of Regions, 
Speaker Lytvyn's bloc, Communists, ex-President Kravchuk's Ne 
Tak coalition, and/or radical Socialist Vitrenko's group. 
While such a coalition would require bringing together a 
diverse group, all but perhaps the last of these forces are 
driven more by a hunger for power (and spoils) rather than 
ideology.  The attraction of an undiluted anti-Orange 
coalition might drive the groups together.  Foreign policy 
directions would turn even more toward Moscow.  Even the 
specter of a reversal of some civil society gains would 
threaten, although most observers think that the civic 
freedoms cat cannot be put back in the bag. 

Doing it all over again? 
------------------------ 

16. (C) Finally, it is conceivable that the forces that make 
it into the Rada in the March elections will not be able to 
make the compromises necessary to form a majority. 
Constitutionally, they have 30 days after taking their seats 
to form a majority and 60 days after the divestiture of 
powers of the Cabinet to appoint a new Cabinet (presumably 
early in the new Rada session).  If they fail to do so, the 
President, after consultations with the Rada and Rada faction 
leadership, may dismiss the Rada, and new elections are to be 
held within 60 days.  Presumably, for this to happen, 
significant forces would have to calculate that they could do 
better in new elections. 

U.S. approach 
------------- 

17. (C) We will be watching carefully the March 26 vote, as 
well as the behavior of all sides in the aftermath.  Our 
approach should be to continue to support a pro-reform 
coalition.  With the unlikely exception of a majority 
coalition that excluded both Yushchenko's and Tymoshenko's 
forces, the USG should be able to work with the government 
put together by the majority that eventually emerges.  The 
elections will determine in the near-to-medium term the 
overall pace of Ukraine's own progress in Euro-Atlantic 
integration, but, as we have seen over the past year with a 
purely Orange government in place, progress is unlikely to be 
simple, swift, smooth and steady no matter what the results. 

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

 

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