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06KIEV1157, MANAFORT ON ELECTION PROBLEMS

March 24, 2006

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06KIEV1157 2006-03-24 15:20 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 001157 

SIPDIS 

E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PGOV PINR PHUM
SUBJECT: MANAFORT ON ELECTION PROBLEMS 

1. (SBU)Summary:  Party of Regions (PoR) political consultant 
Paul Manafort (AmCit, please protect) called on the 
Ambassador March 21 to express his continuing concern about 
the possible disenfranchisement of "hundreds of thousands" of 
Ukrainian voters unless President Yushchenko signed into law 
an amendment to the election law that would authorize local 
courts to add voters, names to the lists on election day. 
Manafort cautioned that if the March 26 election did not go 
smoothly, any finding by the U.S. that it was free and fair 
would influence PoR leader Viktor Yanukovych's understanding 
of democracy.  Manafort said his most recent data showed PoR 
in the lead, followed by Our Ukraine and Tymoshenko,s 
eponymous BYuT bloc.  While he did not rule out a PoR-Our 
Ukraine coalition after the election, he said that Our 
Ukraine's conduct on election day would influence PoR's 
willingness to consider joining ranks with Yushchenko's 
people.  End Summary. 

The Country,s Mood 
------------------ 

2. (SBU) Manafort said his polling indicated that 70% of 
Ukrainians wanted change, although the definition of change 
varied among the population.  The Yushchenko government was 
no longer popular, and Ukrainians generally blamed it for all 
the problems the country faced.  His polling showed that five 
months ago 50% of Ukrainians thought Yushchenko was 
trustworthy, and only 14% found Yanukovych trustworthy. 
Those numbers had shifted dramatically, with Yushchenko's 
confidence rating at 27% and Yanukovych's at 33%.  Yanukovych 
scored higher in the public's view than Yushchenko regarding 
management of issues such as gas supply and relations with 
Russia.  Ambassador noted that the key issue affecting these 
numbers was the fracturing of "Orange" forces following the 
Yushchenko/Tymoshenko split, while the "Blue" forces had 
coalesced around one leader.  Manafort agreed and said his 
goal from the outset was to build Regions into a party that 
had a platform and policies.  Doing so was important for the 
development of democracy in Ukraine, he asserted. 

Yushchenko Trending Downward 
---------------------------- 

3. (SBU) Manafort predicted that five parties would pass the 
3% threshold and win seats in the next Rada:  PoR, Our 
Ukraine, Tymoshenko's BYuT, Communists, and Socialists. 
According to Manafort's most recent polling data, Regions had 
held steady for two weeks and would likely receive 30% of the 
ballots cast March 26.  Yushchenko's Our Ukraine was trending 
downward, from 20% two weeks ago to a current 17%. 
Tymoshenko's BYuT bloc was holding at 14%, although she could 
pick up Orange votes if Our Ukraine's numbers continued to 
decline.  Moroz's Socialist party could pick up as much as 7% 
of the vote.  Both Rada Speaker Lytvyn's bloc and former 
Kuchma chief of staff Medvedchuk's "Ne Tak" bloc were 
hovering in the 3-4% range, as was radical Progressive 
Socialist Vitrenko's party.  Speaker Lytvyn's party was 
trending downward.  Manafort characterized the poll's margin 
of error as "razor thin" and asserted that the "fraud factor" 
could keep Lytvyn's bloc, Vitrenko, and Ne Tak out of the 
next parliament. 

4. (SBU) Manafort said the pool of undecided voters had 
dwindled to 3-4% and noted that the undecided vote would not 
cross between the Regions and Orange camps.  Orange 
undecideds would vote Orange, although it was not clear if 
Yushchenko or Tymoshenko would pick them up.  The same held 
true for "Blue" undecided voters, who would not drift to Our 
Ukraine or Tymoshenko's bloc.  Manafort said that at the 
start of the campaign, he had thought Tymoshenko would 
present the greatest political threat to Regions.  However, 
while Tymoshenko was dynamic, her campaign had no message and 
had not reached its potential. 

Concerns for Election Day 
------------------------- 

5. (SBU) Manafort said he had two concerns for election day: 
fraud by Our Ukraine and the poor state of the voter lists. 
He asserted that Our Ukraine could "steal" up to 5-6% of the 
vote and had plans to conduct "carousel voting" in the west 
and had trained its precinct workers to implement this scam. 
Reflecting, he said Our Ukraine's fraud "would not affect 
me," because Regions was assured of a first-place showing. 
Instead, his concern focused on incomplete voter lists, which 
he said could disenfranchise "tens of thousands or hundreds 
of thousands" of voters on election day.  Manafort said that 
Our Ukraine's goal several months ago was to "cut down" 
Regions voters by one million people.  Now he thought that 
Our Ukraine would reduce the number of Regions voters by 
500,000 to 700,000 people.  He said that entire buildings and 
blocks were left off voter lists.  Ambassador interjected 
that the Chairman of the Central Election Commission 
Davydovych had told us the previous week that the lists were 
incomplete, but that it was a nationwide problem that had no 
regional pattern.  Manafort said he was happy to hear that 
information, but suspected that the problems with the voter 
lists were greater in eastern Ukraine. 

6. (SBU) Manafort predicted that voters would sour on the 
process if they were denied the opportunity to vote as they 
wished.  If Regions received only 21-22% of the vote, it 
would still be the number one party in the Rada. 
Nonethe
less, Regions supporters would feel like they had been 
"cheated again."  Ambassador noted that if Regions supporters 
felt they had been cheated in the 2004 elections that was a 
bad sign.  It would be a very good thing if Regions leaders 
stopped claiming that they were cheated in 2004.   Manafort 
acknowledged Ambassador's point, but said he was conveying a 
feeling prevalent in Regions.  Yanukovych himself did not 
care, for example, if the recent signing of the WTO bilateral 
between Ukraine and the U.S. was a boost to Our Ukraine. 
Ambassador noted that Regions campaign head Kushnaryov had 
indicated that he cared.  Manafort said that Kushnaryov was 
not driving Regions policy.  But Yanukovych was not bothered 
that the U.S. had taken this step.  He was campaigning five 
days a week and had been doing so for the last four months. 
Yet, Manafort asserted, Yanukovych's campaign received little 
coverage by the major television stations in Ukraine; 
Yekhanurov received all the coverage. 

7. (SBU) Ambassador reiterated that the U.S. knew there were 
significant problems with the voting lists.  Amendments to 
the election law had been approved by the Rada and signed by 
President Yushchenko to help correct problems in election 
administration.  Manafort said that Yanukovych knew that the 
USG was saying the right things, but if the U.S. would 
convince Yushchenko to sign another amendment that authorized 
local courts to add voters to the list on election day, then 
the U.S. would get "credit."  "It would be a sign," Manafort 
continued, "that the U.S. puts action where others put 
words."  If Yushchenko vetoed the technical amendment, it 
would be "viewed symbolically."  We asked if Yanukovych and 
Regions were urging voters to go to the precincts and verify 
whether their names were on the lists, as remedies existed 
prior to election day to add names incorrectly left off the 
voter lists.  Nearly all independent organizations and the 
GOU were urging voters to check their names on the lists, we 
noted.  Manafort said that Yanukovych was pressing that 
message, but that many precinct commissions had not yet been 
organized.  We noted our understanding that the number of 
understaffed precinct commissions was growing smaller since 
Yushchenko signed the Rada amendment to fix this problem and 
that many commissions had not been able to form initially 
because political parties, particularly small parties, had 
not provided their representatives in numbers sufficient to 
staff the commissions.  Manafort did not comment. 

Building U.S. Credibility 
------------------------- 

8. (SBU) Yanukovych had accepted that the U.S. wanted fair 
and free elections in Ukraine and knew that there "is only so 
much the U.S. can do," Manafort continued.  But, he 
cautioned, if there were fraud or large numbers of 
disenfranchised voters on March 26 and the U.S. characterized 
the election as free and fair, that position would "taint 
(Yanukovych's) perception of what constitutes a free and fair 
election."  Manafort acknowledged that the election system 
was better now than in 2004.  Manafort said he had spent "a 
lot of time in building U.S. credibility as a supporter of 
democracy."  Regions would receive the highest number of 
votes on March 26, no matter what.  If Regions opponents 
(e.g., Our Ukraine, Tymoshenko) came into power, their 
government would fracture and not last for a year.  And, he 
added, a smart opposition leader would know how to bring such 
a government down.  Regions had been "on the verge" of moving 
to a "grand coalition," but now Manafort did not know what 
would happen after the election.  Yanukovych wanted a 
coalition, Manafort asserted, and was willing to abide by its 
terms.  Yanukovych believed he had a way of "trapping" 
Yushchenko into doing things to "live up to" a possible 
coalition agreement.  But if election day went badly and many 
people were disenfranchised, or if Our Ukraine engaged in 
provocations, then he did not know what would happen to 
coalition possibilities.  Manafort said that Regions had 
excellent sources in Our Ukraine and that he read the same 
election material that Yushchenko received.  He had 
information that Our Ukraine supporters intended to 
masquerade as Regions supporters on election day and engage 
in provocations that would cause precinct commissions to shut 
down the precincts.  Then Regions would get the blame, and 
even more voters would be disenfranchised. 

9. (SBU) Comment:  Independent observer missions with 
long-term observers stationed in western Ukraine have 
reported no evidence of an Our Ukraine plan to use carousel 
voting, but we have alerted them to this allegation so they 
can be alert to any possible abuse.  Independent media 
monitoring organizations also report far more balanced 
reporting and media treatment of candidate parties and blocs 
than in 2004. 
Herbst

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