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06KIEV1247, UKRAINE: ELECTION SNAPSHOT OF SEVERODONETSK, HOST

March 29, 2006

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06KIEV1247 2006-03-29 16:06 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 001247 

SIPDIS 

E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PGOV PHUM KDEM OSCE
SUBJECT: UKRAINE: ELECTION SNAPSHOT OF SEVERODONETSK, HOST 
OF THE LATE NOVEMBER 2004 SEPARATIST RALLY 

REF: A. 04 KIEV 4355 

     B. KIEV 936 
     C. KIEV 1022 

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

1. (SBU) Summary:  We observed Ukraine's March 26 Rada and 
local elections in the city of Severodonetsk, Luhansk Oblast, 
site of the infamous November 28, 2004 separatist rally held 
at the height of the late 2004 Orange Revolution, at which 
then-PM Yanukovych, many Party of Regions backers from 
eastern and southern Ukraine, and Moscow Mayor Luzhkov 
suggested that eastern and southern Ukraine might pursue 
separatism rather than coexist under an "Orange" government 
in Kiev.  Severodonetsk's vote went relatively smoothly March 
26, with Regions winning in a landslide, though our 
observation team observed more election day procedural 
violations in Severodonetsk than in other locations, 
suggesting that some old habits die hard.  At least in 
Severodonetsk, concerns about voter list inaccuracies and 
polling station commission (PSC) understaffing proved less 
disruptive than the opposition Regions Party and the 
independent Committee of Voters of Ukraine (CVU) had 
predicted.  Most Severodonetsk PSCs were formed a week late, 
but CVU thought that voters had had an adequate opportunity 
to check their names on the voter list, and only small 
numbers of voters were turned away on election day because 
their names were not on the voter list.  The complexity of 
holding four elections at the same time, plus inadequate 
space in some polling stations, led to long lines and 
exhausted PSC staff, who were in many instances still 
counting votes late on March 27, with results reported to the 
Central Election Commission only on March 29.  End summary. 

Severodonetsk: from separatist rally to Regions' landslide 
--------------------------------------------- ------------- 

2. (SBU) Severodonetsk earned an enduring place on Ukraine's 
political map by hosting a frenzied separatist rally, which 
then-PM Yanukovych attended on November 28, 2004, at the 
height of the Orange Revolution.  During Ukraine's March 26 
Rada (Parliament) and local elections, we observed the 
election in Severodonetsk under the auspices of the 
Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's Office 
for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (OSCE/ODIHR). 
3. (U) In Luhansk oblast overall March 26, Regions scored a 
74-percent outright victory (with 91 percent of the oblast 
vote tallied), largely consolidating the base Yanukovych 
established in the 2004 presidential election cycle, when he 
received over 90 percent of the vote, shifting the province's 
primary allegiance from Communist "red" to Regions' "blue" 
(ref A).  In the 2002 Rada elections, the Communists won a 
plurality of 39.7 percent in the oblast, followed by the 
pro-Kuchma For a United Ukraine (from which Regions emerged) 
with 14.4%, SPDU(o) 9.5%, Vitrenko 4%, Our Ukraine 3.6%, the 
Socialists 3.1% and the Tymoshenko Bloc 1.4%. 

4. (U) Severodonetsk is an industrial city of 140,000 in 
Luhansk Oblast, near the border with Russia.  Severodonetsk 
hosts the AZOT fertilizer plant, subject of a heated 
privatization dispute (it was privatized in November 2004 in 
the midst of the heated presidential election season); a 
massive oil refinery is located in the bordering city of 
Lisichansk.  On March 25 in advance of the vote, we met with 
Sergey Kamyshan, head of the CVU's Severodonetsk branch; 
representatives of District Election Commission (DEC) 109; 
and with 4 polling station commissions (PSCs) in DEC 109.  On 
election day, March 26, we visited 10 PSCs in DEC 109. 

Problems with voter list, but not insurmountable 
--------------------------------------------- --- 

5. (SBU) CVU's Kamyshan predicted there might be problems on 
election day due to the poor quality of the voter list, an 
assessment echoed by numerous PSCs.  (In the end, however, 
the problems did not appear to be that great.)  Kamyshan and 
the PSCs blamed the Voter List Working Groups (VLWGs) tasked 
with updating the voter list and the city administration 
heads charged with coordinating the VLWGs.  The working 
groups failed to go door to door verifying people's 
information, as was expected.  Separately, a PSC chairperson 
indicated that the VLWGs were hotbeds of nepotism and 
cronyism with relatives and friends being hired, but not 
actually working on improving the voter list.  Problems on 
the voter lists frequently cited by PSCs were bad computer 
transliterations of names and addresses from Russian to 
Ukrainian, some translations of street names from Russian to 
Ukrainian, and persons being listed at one address but 
actually living at another address.  Both the CVU and PSCs 
thought that these problems were well within the capacity of 
PSCs to deal with on election day, an assessment that was 
borne out in our observation of the voting. 

PSCs formed late, but good balance 
---------------------------------- 

6. (SBU) Similar fears that PSCs would not have sufficient 
staffing also went unrealized, with the DEC using the March 
17 amendment to the parliamentary election law to top up PSC &#x00
0A;staffing.  According to the DEC, additions were mostly people 
who worked at the same institution or business that hosted 
the PSC.  The DEC indicated that 28 parties were represented 
on PSCs, with mainly small parties unable to supply 
commissioners.  Visits to PSCs showed a good distribution of 
party representatives on PSCs, with representatives from a 
wide range of parties playing leadership roles.  Kamyshan 
indicated that most PSCs opened 5-7 days late, an assessment 
verified by our discussions with PSC commissioners.  Kamyshan 
and the PSCs thought this still gave voters sufficient time 
to check their names on the voter list and prevent themselves 
from being disenfranchised, an assessment borne out by our 
observation on election day, when the number of voters turned 
away by polling stations ranged from 0-10 per station. 

Long lines, late counts 
----------------------- 

7. (SBU) The biggest concern voiced by the DEC and PSCs 
concerned the difficulty of administering four elections at 
the same time, particularly the time involved in counting the 
ballots by hand at large polling stations (2000-plus voters). 
 These concerns were borne out as we observed long lines at 
some polling stations, particularly those with large numbers 
of registered voters, but too small a facility to handle the 
voters.  PSC management played an important role, with 
well-run PSCs keeping lines outside the PSC proper to prevent 
overcrowding, and badly-run PSCs allowing everyone to wait 
inside, leading to standing-room only conditions that limited 
access to the booths/ballot boxes.  We observed wait times 
averaging from 30 minutes to an hour at large urban PSCs. 
Fears of long vote counts also came to pass; we observed the 
vote count at PSC 17 in Severodonetsk, which took 12 hours to 
count 1672 parliamentary ballots.  PSC 17's results finally 
appeared on the CEC website mid-day March 29 (accurately, we 
note).  Conversations with OSCE/ODIHR's long-term observers 
in Luhansk indicated that these problems were endemic 
throughout Luhansk Oblast. 

Possible fraud in local elections 
--------------------------------- 

8. (SBU) CVU's Kamyshan thought that, while administrative 
resources would not be used to influence the parliamentary 
election, falsifications were likely on the local level. 
Kamyshan alleged that Party of Regions twice rigged the 
selection process for the chairmanship of a Territorial 
Election Commission (TEC, the supervisory commission for the 
local elections) in Severodonetsk.  The first time the TEC 
chairman was selected by random drawing, and the CVU filmed 
an official holding aside the envelope with the Party of the 
Regions commissioner's names so that it was drawn first.  CVU 
sued to have the selection invalidated, but the local court 
threw out the suit; an appeals court overthrew this decision 
and ordered that the selection be redone.  Suspiciously, on 
the repeat selection, Regions won again. 

9. (SBU) During our observation, we identified some 
violations of election law in the outlying town of Rubizhne, 
likely connected with local elections there.  At PSC 54, we 
observed PSC workers giving out ballots without checking the 
voter list, or even having a copy of the voter list on the 
table.  When we asked to see the voter list, we were whisked 
away to see the PSC chairperson.  When we returned with 
chairperson in tow, a voter list had appeared.  In Rubizhne 
we also noted PSCs with 100-200 voters registered to vote 
from home.  (Note:  Ukrainian election law allows the elderly 
and sick to vote from home via a mobile ballot box.  CVU in 
Severodonetsk had advised us that more than 50 mobile voters 
registered with a single PSC should be considered 
suspicious.)  At PSC 65 in Rubizhne, the mobile ballot boxes 
were not stored in the open as required by law, but were kept 
in a back room, without control slips in them.  PSC 65 had 
approximately 200 voters on the mobile list, but at 11:00 am 
the mobile boxes were empty and being kept in a back room, 
raising suspicions that they were going to be stuffed.  We 
related this to fellow election observers with CVU, who sent 
a team to PSC 65 to investigate.  When they spoke with the 
PSC Chairperson, she reportedly falsely claimed that we had 
been there at 6:15 am, thus explaining the lack of control 
slips in the empty boxes.  (Comment:  The number of votes 
involved was relatively small on the national scale, but 
could be significant in local elections, particularly in city 
council or mayoral elections.) 
Old habits die hard 
------------------- 

10. (SBU) Comment:  The Embassy observation team in 
Severodonetsk witnessed more procedural violations than in 
other provinces covered by Embassy teams.  Though 
circumstantial, the evidence was suggestive of abuses that 
had been commonplace on behalf of Regions' leader Yanukovych 
in 2004 when he ran for president (stacking committees, 
manipulating voters' lists, abusing mobile ballot boxes). 
While the actions in 2006 may well have been locally 
initiated and intended to boost performance in local 
elections, the violations stood in contrast to Regions Party 
efforts to project an image of concern over the integrity of 
the election process (refs B-C).  In the end, the highlighted 
shortcomings in the voter list should have been addressed by 
the voter list working groups staffed by local administration 
officials, which in Severodonetsk at least mostly claim 
fealty to Regions. 

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

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