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06KIEV1186, UKRAINE: ELECTION SNAPSHOT: ON THE BATTLEFIELDS OF

March 28, 2006

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06KIEV1186 2006-03-28 12:17 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 001186 

SIPDIS 

E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM
SUBJECT: UKRAINE: ELECTION SNAPSHOT: ON THE BATTLEFIELDS OF 
POLTAVA, BYUT AND REGIONS PREVAIL 

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

1. (SBU) Summary:  Yuliya Tymoshenko's bloc (BYuT) and Party 
of Regions ran the best-organized campaigns and received the 
top vote shares March 26 in the central Ukrainian oblast of 
Poltava, where in recent years the Socialist Party had held 
sway.  BYuT's success in the more recent campaign was built 
on a grass roots, door-to-door strategy, combined with a 
decision to avoid efforts to take on entrenched mayors whose 
electorate showed a potential willingness to vote for BYuT in 
the city, oblast or national Rada races.  In the run-up to 
the election, Poltava's polling station commissions (PSCs) 
and local working groups functioned well, cleaning up voters 
lists.  There was a modest level of pre-election 
administrative resource abuse by the long-time Poltava 
"Mayor" Anatoly Kukoba on behalf of Regions and his own 
candidacy.  On election day, there was disorganization at a 
handful of PSCs, leading to lines and some voters unwilling 
to wait more than an hour to vote walking away, but the 
election appeared by and large to go smoothly and calmly. 
End summary. 

Poltava's Recent Political Winners: Socialists, Yushchenko 
--------------------------------------------- ------------- 

2. (U) In recent years (1998 and 2002 Rada elections, 1999 
Presidential election), the Socialists had scored plurality 
wins in the largely agrarian central Ukrainian province of 
Poltava (where in 1709 Russian Tsar Peter the Great's forces 
bested those of Sweden's Charles XII in the decisive battle 
of the Great Northern War).  In the oblast, which has had a 
tradition since independence of voting against those in power 
in Kiev, in the 2002 Rada elections, the Socialists received 
22 percent of the vote, their top showing nationwide; Our 
Ukraine finished second with 20.5 percent, and the Communists 
third with 17.7 percent. 

3. (SBU) In the 2004 presidential elections, despite heavy 
administrative resource abuses in favor of then-PM 
Yanukovych, Yushchenko scored 61 percent of the second-round 
vote and 66 percent of the December 26 revote.  Resource 
abuses included a provincial media blockade of Yushchenko's 
campaign, only one color campaign advertising (blue) 
permitted, and documented busing of absentee voter caravans 
repeatedly voting at multiple precincts, according to Poltava 
Committee of Voters of Ukraine (CVU) deputy head Mykolai 
Rozhentsev, who personally filmed the eight-bus caravan. 

Pre-Election 2006: Well-organized, but local admin abuses 
--------------------------------------------- ------------ 

4. (SBU) Organization of Poltava's 2006 Rada elections seemed 
better than elsewhere and not marked by concerns over PSC 
staffing and voter lists, based on our observations March 
24-25 and conversations with the OSCE/ODIHR long-term 
observer, Poltava CVU, and local journalists.  Few PSCs did 
not function in February as intended due to staffing 
shortages.  Local working groups, in conjunction with PSCs, 
consistently fulfilled the task of scrubbing the voters lists 
for last-minute changes, including striking off "dead souls" 
and adding students and others who had turned 18, plus 
occupants of houses and buildings inadvertently left off the 
list established by the Central Election Committee (CEC) in 
November 2005.  Based on our survey of over 20 PSCs in 
Poltava city, such additions/subtractions averaged 50 names 
per PSC, or 2.5 percent on average of any PSC's voter list 
(average PSC size of 2000 voters). 

5. (SBU) The only concern about administrative abuses in the 
2006 cycle related to the heavy-handed actions of Poltava 
city's political don Anatoly Kukoba, who has run the city as 
his personal fiefdom since 1990, prior to independence. 
Kukoba, elected to both the Rada (as an independent) and to 
the mayor's office in 2002, prevented a by-election from 
occurring after he chose to assume his Rada mandate; Poltava 
has thus been without an official mayor since 2002, though 
Kukoba fulfils the role for ceremonial occasions.  Kukoba, 
now affiliated with Party of Regions, attempted to repeat 
elements of Regions' 2004 strategy in the 2006 cycle at the 
local level.  Poltava formed its Kukoba-dominated Territorial 
Election Committee (TEC) for local elections in late 
December, two days prior to passage of the law governing TEC 
formation.  The TEC and Kukoba-dominated local courts 
subsequently refused to allow the Socialist Party, Our 
Ukraine, and Pora to register candidates for the Poltava city 
council race; all three parties belatedly gained registration 
through a decision of the Poltava oblast appellate court. 
Kukoba also used municipal workers to hang Regions' campaign 
banners over Poltava's streets pro bono, according to local 
journalists. 

BYuT's strategy: grass roots org, avoid local dons 
--------------------------------------------- ----- 

6. (SBU) The CVU and journalists accurately predicted that 
the strongest two parties in the March 26 elections would be 
BYuT and Regions, based on superior organization and an 
ability to tap into Poltava's tradition of voting against 
those in power.  The Socialists, currently dominant in the 
oblast administration (governor and all five deput
ies), had 
not organized themselves well in this cycle and would be 
punished for being "in power," according to Vasyl Neyizhmak, 
head of the Poltava Press Club.  As of 1030 March 28, with 
about 85 percent of precincts reporting, the CEC's website 
indicated that BYuT led the voting with between 22.5 and 33.5 
percent in eight of nine electoral districts in Poltava, with 
Regions leading in an industrialized, Russian-speaking 
district bordering Dnipropetrovsk. 

7. (SBU) BYuT's deputy campaign chair for Poltava, Oleksandr 
Zaluzhny, explained to us March 24 BYuT's strategy for 
success, which he said followed BYuT's nationwide strategy. 
BYuT had pursued a grass-roots, door-to-door campaign 
strategy.  BYuT's campaign staff named a team leader for 
every precinct; each team leader had 4-5 assistants, and the 
precinct teams divided the precinct between them, going door 
to door to identify voters potentially willing to support 
BYuT.  The teams then targeted that list of potential voters 
with campaign literature on follow-up visits.  BYuT did not 
waste its effort and money on generalized activities or 
involvement in mayoral races that it could not win, instead 
focusing energies on the Rada races at various levels: 
national parliament (Verkhovna Rada), plus oblast and 
city/town councils.  In Poltava city, that meant not joining 
the opposition coalition to unseat "Mayor" Kukoba, because 
BYuT's initial surveys showed many of Kukoba's entrenched 
electorate willing to vote for BYuT for the various Rada 
races. 

Election day/night: smooth overall with a couple of bumps 
--------------------------------------------- ------------ 

8. (SBU)  Election day in Poltava city's election district 
142 went largely smoothly, with only isolated incidents of 
poor organization leading to lines and waits of up to an hour 
to vote.  Of the 20 PSCs we visited on election day, 17 were 
well-organized with minimal lines; only three PSCs suffered 
from disorganization connected to the issuance of five 
separate ballots to voters, which led to a limited number of 
would-be voters walking away rather than waiting to vote. 
PSC number 66, located in an agrarian university, was the 
most chaotic we saw, with a line of 150 voters waiting in 
line to vote at 2130, a half-hour before poll closing.  We 
observed the count at PSC 67, the district's designated 
absentee voter PSC; the count of 1683 votes cast went slowly 
but smoothly, with the Rada vote count completed without 
incident at 0730 the next morning, March 27.  (Note:  The 
vote count posted on the CEC website jibed with the tally our 
observers recorded.) 

Organization, rather than personality, won the day 
--------------------------------------------- ----- 

9. (SBU) Comment:  Election results in Poltava appeared to 
demonstrate the value of old-fashioned grass roots party 
organization, combined with an ability to tap into voter 
discontent with the perceived parties in power -- in 
Poltava's case, Our Ukraine and the Socialists.  A lack of 
organization also contributed to two other election day 
losers in the oblast, the Communist party and Rada Speaker 
Lytvyn's bloc.  The latter spent heavily on advertising and 
had many rural district chiefs on its roster, but these local 
"names" and national money did not compensate for the lack of 
effective organization or any sense of what Lytvyn's bloc 
represented, other than getting into office. 

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

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