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06KIEV1258, UKRAINE ELECTION SNAPSHOT: REGIONS PARTY TAKES

March 30, 2006

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06KIEV1258 2006-03-30 12:56 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 001258 

SIPDIS 

E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PGOV PREL KDEM
SUBJECT: UKRAINE ELECTION SNAPSHOT: REGIONS PARTY TAKES 
CRIMEA AMID CRIES OF FOUL IN LOCAL ELECTIONS 

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

1. (SBU) Summary:  In an election in which the status of 
Russian language and ties with Russia figured heavily in the 
local political agenda, voters in Ukraine's Autonomous 
Republic of Crimea delivered the majority of their votes to 
Viktor Yanukovych's Party of Regions in voting for the 
national parliament (Verkhovna Rada) March 26.  Polling 
station disorganization and faulty voter lists were evident 
in Crimea as elsewhere throughout Ukraine, but did not 
prevent election day from proceeding calmly.  In the race for 
Crimean parliament, Regions, running together with a 
localized "Russian bloc" under a "For Yanukovych" banner, 
scored a 32-percent plurality.  Crimean PM Burdyuhov, 
representing President Yushchenko's People's Union-Our 
Ukraine party, called for the Crimean parliament race to be 
annulled due to vote count irregularities and failure to 
distribute ballots for the Crimean rada at some polling 
stations likely to vote in favor of Our Ukraine.  The race 
for Simferopol mayor was annulled due to last-minute 
deregistration machinations and will be rerun.  The house of 
one of Crimea's leading journalists, Liliya Budzhurova, was 
subject to an arson attack March 1 after she published a 
Ministry of Interior list of hundreds of criminals and 
suspected criminals running for office in Crimea; a village 
administration head winner was the subject of a fatal assault 
March 29 in what may have been an election-related crime. 
End summary. 

You've got that Russian feeling 
------------------------------- 

2. (SBU) The run-up to election day in Crimea was dominated 
locally by efforts to place a Russian-language referendum on 
the ballot and nationally by concerns that hundreds of 
suspected or convicted criminals were running for seats in 
the Crimean Parliament and local councils.  The Crimean 
Appellate Court and Central Election Commission put a stop to 
the Russian-language referendum effort, saying it had not 
complied with appropriate legal procedures.. 

3. (SBU) In March 25-26 visits to a dozen precincts in the 
region around Simferopol covered by District Election 
Commission (DEC) no. 1, we sensed a strong resonance for the 
pro-Russian, anti-West, anti-U.S., and anti-Ukrainian 
nationalist messages of the Crimean branches of Party of 
Regions, Vitrenko's People's Opposition, the Communists and 
the SDPU(o)-led Ne Tak bloc.  The pro-Russian attitude of 
Regions' Crimean branch was even more pronounced than that of 
its headquarter, according to Crimean Tatar activist Nadir 
Bekir, as Regions compteted against a greater array of 
Russophile political forces in Crimea.  Yanukovych received 
81 percent of the Crimean vote in the December 2004 
presidential election re-vote. 

4. (SBU) With 100 percent of Crimean precincts reporting the 
March 26 election results, Regions received 58 percent of 
Crimea's vote for the Verkhovna Rada.  "We know they are 
SOBs, but they're our SOBs," one local polling station 
commission (PSC) member told us March 26.  The main 
countervailing influences that we detected were Crimea's 
Tatars (who now form 13 percent of Crimea's population and 
have traditionally affiliated with Rukh, a component of the 
national Our Ukraine Bloc) and the Tymoshenko Bloc (BYuT), 
whose populist message resonated among some younger people. 

Crimean parliament - Crimean PM claims: We wuz robbed! 
--------------------------------------------- --------- 

5. (U) The voting for Crimea's own 100-seat parliament (rada) 
was more dispersed.  (Note:  The Crimean Rada is separate 
from the Crimean Tatar Mejlis, a communal council which 
represents the interests of the Tatar population, is not a 
formal government institution, and is elected on a different 
cycle.)  With 92% of precincts reporting by late March 29, 
the "For Yanukovych" electoral bloc, formed by the Crimean 
branch of Party of Regions and a local "Russian bloc" party, 
had received a plurality of 32.1%, followed by former Crimean 
PM Kunitsyn's bloc (8.4%), Rukh (6.9%, representing the Tatar 
vote), "Soyuz" (Union, advocating union with Russia 6.8%), 
BYuT (6.3%), Communists (5.8%), and Vitrenko (4.1%). 
Apparently failing to clear the three-percent threshold were 
Ne Tak! (2.7%), Lytvyn's bloc (2.4%), People's Union Our 
Ukraine (1.4%), and the Socialists (1.0%). 

6. (U) Crimean PM Anatoliy Burdyuhov, appointed in September 
2005 and the top candidate on the Crimean parliament slate of 
People's Union Our Ukraine (PUOU), which ran separately from 
its fellow national Our Ukraine bloc component Rukh party in 
the Crimean elections, cried foul at a March 29 news 
conference.  He blamed "considerable falisifications" for 
PUOU being shut out of the Crimean parliament, claiming that 
PUOU had recorded instances where votes cast for PUOU and the 
Socialists were "recorded as votes given to the For 
Yanukovych electoral bloc."  On March 28, PUOU's Crimean 
branch called for the annulment of the elections to Crimea's 
parliament, claiming its observers had documented that voters 
had not been issued ballots for the Crimean parliamentary 
election at 14 different PSCs. 

Despite disorganization, mainly calm e
lection day 
--------------------------------------------- ---- 

7. (SBU) Despite widespread fears nationally about problems 
with voter lists, long and complicated ballots, and shortages 
of PSC members, our visits to Simferopol precincts March 25 
and on election day revealed generally well prepared 
commissions that had worked conscientiously to correct voter 
lists in the lead-up to election day.  In precinct 132, for 
instance, 500 names had been added after an entire block had 
inadvertently been left out of the list issued in November 
2005, increasing the precinct's total number of voters to 
just over 3,000.  Voters at the precinct did at one point did 
have to wait 45 minutes to vote, but appeared tolerate the 
inconvenience. 

8. (SBU) Somewhat surprisingly, we also did not observe any 
problems with computer-aided transliteration from Russian to 
Ukrainian of names on the voter lists, a problem constantly 
highlighted by spokespersons for Regions Party and for the 
independent NGO Committee of Voters of Ukraine (CVU).  When 
we asked poll workers about the transliteration problem, most 
dismissed it, noting that when problems arose, they had 
authority under the law to authorize on-the-spot corrections. 
 The local CVU representative and OSCE/ODIHR long-term 
observers (LTOs) did not identify any major concerns, 
emphasizing instead the dirty campaigning that had been 
conducted at the local level. 

9. (SBU) One notable glitch occurred in the Simferopol 
mayoral race.  Confusion over implementation of an 11th-hour 
court order to delete and/or reinstate a Simferopol mayoral 
candidate on the ballot led to uneven actions across 
Simferopol.  As a result, the mayoral race for Simferopol was 
declared invalid and will have to be rerun. 

Criminals, criminals, everywhere? 
--------------------------------- 

10. (SBU) Crimea attracted negative pre-election coverage 
regarding concerns about the potential criminalization of its 
local councils (where deputies' immunity was available) after 
Interior Minister Lutsenko announced in late February that 
over 100 candidates for the Crimean parliament were the 
subject of open criminal investigations, and that over 500 
candidates for local councils were convicted criminals. 
After independent Simferopol-based journalist Liliya 
Budzhurova published the names of those fingered by Lutsenko 
in her Pervaya Krymska paper, her house was the subject of a 
middle-of-the-night arson attack March 1 (no one was injured, 
as the fire was fortunately quickly extinguished). 

11. (SBU) Budzhurova told us March 2 that the situation in 
Crimea was as bad as it had been since the early 1990s, with 
criminals once again acting with impunity.  Anatoliy 
Symonenko, the victorious candidate to head the Mirny village 
administration near Yevpatoria, died early March 30 after a 
brutal March 29 assault by two unidentified club-wielding 
individuals.  Lutsenko, presidential chief of staff Rybachuk, 
and National Security and Defense Council Secretary Kinakh 
all spent time in Crimea in early March attempting to ensure 
the situation did not spin out of control and to make clear 
to Crimean authorities that Kiev was watching developments 
closely.  March 30 press reports indicated that Lutsenko 
would personally supervise the criminal investigation into 
Symonenko's death. 

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

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