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06KIEV1245, UKRAINE: DEMOCRACY TAKES ROOT IN BREZHNEV’S

March 29, 2006

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06KIEV1245 2006-03-29 16:00 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 001245 

SIPDIS 

E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PGOV PHUM KDEM OSCE
SUBJECT: UKRAINE: DEMOCRACY TAKES ROOT IN BREZHNEV'S 
HOMETOWN -- PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS IN DNIPRODZERZHYNSK 

(U) Sensitive but unclassified, please handle accordingly. 

1. (SBU) Summary:  In a check of 12 polling stations and 
while observing opening and closing procedures at two others 
in Dniprodzerzhynsk (Dnipropetrovsk oblast), an Embassy 
election monitoring team participating with the OSCE/ODIHR 
election mission found few irregularities March 26-27.  The 
vast majority of election officials appeared committed to 
ensuring a free and fair vote and vote count.  Viktor 
Yanukovych's Party of Regions took 50 percent of the vote in 
the precinct which we "closed" and, with 90 percent of the 
votes counted, won a 45-percent plurality in Dnipropetrovsk 
oblast overall.  End summary. 

Brezhnev and the Statue of Liberty 
---------------------------------- 

2. (U) Dniprodzerzhynsk is located 45 kilometers northwest of 
Dnipropetrovsk (city), along both banks of the Dnipro River, 
with a population of 280,000.  On December 19, 1906, future 
leader of the Soviet Union Leonid Brezhnev was born in the 
town, then called Kamenskoye.  (Note:  While ethnically 
Russian, Brezhnev displayed a distinctively Ukrainian 
pronunciation all his life.)  As befits a town that bears the 
name of Felix Dzerzhinsky, the feared founder of the CHEKA, 
the first Soviet secret police, Dniprodzerzhynsk appears 
still to be looking back nostalgically at its past.  The 
Embassy election observer team stayed on the city's 
developing left bank, in the Hotel Montana, located on a 
street with a Ukrainian name that translates into "50 years 
of the Soviet Union."  Judging from photographs in the lobby, 
wedding couples frequently have their photographs taken 
mimicking the actions of a post-independence statue in front 
of the hotel depicting a loin-clothed man (not Brezhnev) and 
the Statue of Liberty standing together on a globe with 
clasped hands upraised together.  The plaque said the statue 
was raised to symbolize the hope that the world would move 
toward greater friendship and peace. 

3. (SBU) Jarring contradictions continued inside the hotel. 
On the right was a bust of Brezhnev and on the left, the 
entrance to the Montana Bar and Cafe, which sported numerous 
U.S. flags and a plaque of the U.S. Constitution.  The hotel 
room was decorated with the surrealist art of Salvador Dali, 
while a large mirror with an ornate gilded frame and 
reproductions of early Renaissance paintings hung on the 
opposite wall.  The receptionist's surly attitude and the 
sparse furnishing and the running toilet in the hotel room, 
however, were pure Soviet. 

The Electoral District: tough to manage 
--------------------------------------- 

4. (SBU) According to District Election Commission (DEC) 
Chairwoman Vera Mamedova, DEC no. 30 was difficult to manage 
because of its large area and boundary lines.  It included 
145 polling stations, of which 108 were large (more than 
1,500 voters on the lists), 24 average (500 - 1,500 voters), 
and 13 small (less than 500 voters).  Absentee voters could 
cast their votes at two polling stations, one in 
Dniprodzerzhynsk and one in the DEC's rural area. 
Dniprodzerzhynsk city created a large doughnut hole in the 
electoral district, with the farthest polling station lying 
40 miles from the DEC office.  Mamedova said that, during 
this election, political parties were given a lot of power to 
nominate commission members, but many nominees lacked 
experience, compounding the DEC's organizational difficulties. 

Minor Procedural Problems 
------------------------- 

5. (U) Despite any nostalgia for the past in 
Dniprodzerzhynsk, election commissions were focused on the 
parliamentary and local elections and appeared to carry out 
their duties conscientiously.  We observed elections at 12 
polling stations, including one restricted access facility 
located in a women's prison.  There were no indications of 
gross violations or serious misconduct, and the voting 
process appeared to be free and fair.  Common problems 
included overcrowded polling facilities, long lines, and 
voters who chose to vote outside the voting booth, thus 
potentially compromising the secrecy of the ballot.  When 
asked if the polling stations were provided with all 
necessary materials (voter lists, ballot boxes, ballot 
papers, protocols, etc.), only one polling station commission 
(PSC) chairman informed us that he photocopied missing 
control slips by borrowing them from a neighboring polling 
location.  At one polling station, the commission chairwoman 
told us initially that all voting materials had been 
received, but during the closing procedure, it turned out 
that her polling station was provided only 15 special sorting 
bags even though there were 45 parties listed on the ballot. 
As a result, ballots were wrapped in party program sheets 
that had been posted in the lobby. 

6. (U) Election officials generally worked hard to overcome 
problems not of their making.  At the polling station whose 
opening we observed, the PSC grappled with how to adjust 
municipal ballots after learning at 3:00 a.m. that morning 
that a court had disqualified the Reforms and Order Party 
from the city elections.  Per election law amendments, the 
party's name had
to be canceled with a stamp, and the PSC did 
so for an initial tranche, but the extra work caused the 
polling station to open a half-hour late.  Voters often had 
difficulty deciphering the multiple, two-foot-long ballots. 
As a result, each voter often took around twenty minutes to 
vote, particularly in precincts with a high percentage of 
elderly. 

7. (SBU) The PSCs we observed followed election law and 
procedures.  At all polling stations visited, political 
parties' agendas were displayed clearly at the entrance (as 
allowed), but there was no active campaigning or voter 
intimidation visible.  Commission chairs were generally 
friendly and welcomed us.  In one polling station, however, a 
commission chairman continued to bird-dog us after explaining 
the station's lay-out and procedures.  At another, the 
commission chairman tried discourage us from visiting a 
neighboring polling station located in the same building. 
(Note:  We visited that neighboring polling station and found 
nothing untoward.)  In crowded polling stations, the general 
atmosphere was tense, with people growing impatient.  In one 
of the crowded polling stations, when we tried to see if 
identification documents were checked properly, several 
waiting voters became agitated, saying that international 
observers were not needed and only meddled in the process. 

The Final Result: Straightforward count, Regions victory 
--------------------------------------------- ----------- 

8. (U) PSC 86 worked well together, closing precisely at 
10:00 p.m. and quickly settling down to the task of counting 
ballots.  There was no disagreement over a small number of 
disqualified ballots; despite the late hour, the PSC 
succeeded in reconciling signatures, ballots, and 
counterfoils after recounting ballots twice more after the 
initial tally.  Since the DEC had not provided party labels 
to be used in separating the ballots, the PEC chairwomen 
called out the party or bloc's number on the ballot.  The 
actual count of the national parliament (Verkhovna Rada) 
ballots was over by 2:45 a.m., but packaging the ballots and 
preparation of the protocol took an additional 90 minutes. 

9. (U) At PSC 86, Party of Regions received 50 percent (481 
votes) of the 941 votes cast, Bloc Yuliya Tymoshenko was a 
distant second with 14 percent (135 votes), and Our Ukraine 
bloc third with 5.8 percent (55 votes).  The Communist Party 
received 30 votes, surpassed by Viche's 35 votes, but more 
than the Socialist Party's 27 votes and Bloc Nataliya 
Vitrenko's 25 votes.  Lytvyn's Bloc received 21 votes; 
Pora-PRP, 12 votes; and Ne Tak, just 9.  (Note:  In the third 
round of the 2004 presidential vote, Dniprodzerzhynsk voted 
70 percent in favor of Yanukovych, a strong win but not as 
large as in a few oblasts further east and south.  As 
elsewhere, voter disenchantment with President Yuschenko 
appeared to have caused voters to favor BYuT.  The PSC 86 
Chairwoman, as she escorted the Embassy observation team out, 
appeared embarrassed by the result.  She explained that the 
high percentage of pensioners meant the region was especially 
conservative politically and ready to believe in Party of 
Regions' promises.  She expressed hope, however, that the 
political dynamic would change over time.) 

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

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